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The popular misconception of what does child support cover is that child support is intended only to cover only a child’s bare necessities, like food and clothing. The truth, however, is that child support covers much more. Child support includes school fees, entertainment, medical expenses, and extracurricular activities, among other things. In California, courts do not require parents to prove the child support payments they receive are going toward specific activities. The exception to this rule occurs where there are concerns that the child’s basic needs, like food, shelter, and clothing, are not being met.

Basic Necessities
It seems fairly obvious that child support may be used to pay for food, shelter, and clothing. Purchasing groceries and clothing, and even paying the mortgage, rent, or utilities is acceptable.

Uninsured Medical Expenses

Child support may be used to pay for uninsured medical expenses and any out-of-pocket medical costs exceeding the cost of basic health insurance. Such costs include co-pays, deductibles, and surgery expenses. In California, parents must pay for half of all uninsured medical costs.


Even public education is not completely free. Child support may be used toward the cost of school uniforms, textbooks, lunch money, and even private tutors, if necessary. California divorced parents are required to pay for half of all education-related expenses.

If one or both parents work, and cannot stay home with their child, child support is appropriate for covering childcare expenses, including daycare, babysitters, and nannies. Of course, during school breaks in the summer months or on holidays, child support may also be used to cover any childcare needs.

Child support may pay for basic transportation and travel costs, because children need to be transported safely and securely. Transportation costs may include car maintenance, gas, registration, and insurance. Child support may also be used for travel costs, particularly when traveling to visit the non-custodial parent.


Child support may be used for age-appropriate entertainment activities, as agreed upon by both parents. Entertainment can range from computers, television, and the internet to the movie theater, amusement parks, camping trips and possibly other activities as questioned in our recent family law attorney blog post..

It is important to remember that the purpose of paying child support is ensuring that the child’s standard of living does not decrease simply because his or her parents divorced. At any time, either parent may request a review of the child support order by the local child support agency. The request must be in writing, stating the reasons for changing the support order. Generally, modification is justified when getting a new job, losing a job, or if custody/visitation changes. However, quitting a job is not justification for a review.

If the local child support agency decides the requirements for review are not met, the parent requesting the review may ask the court to review the order. In the event that both parents can agree on the amount of support ahead of time, the parents can sign a stipulation that must be filed with the court.

Certainly, in these difficult economic times, payment of child support is a difficult obligation. In the event that a parent cannot make the full child support payment, they should immediately contact their local child support agency to avoid or minimize any legal actions as a result.

See related blog posts:

The Importance of Establishing Paternity
Divorce in Six Months or Six Years

If you have questions about child custody you may need to contact an experienced Santa Rosa child custody attorney to help you determine what your child custody needs may be.

Child Custody Attorney Daniel B. Beck and the Santa Rosa child custody lawyers at Beck Law P.C. have worked on child custody cases for decades. We understand the various factors that a court may consider when deciding on child custody matters. Each parent’s economic situation as well as many other variables will come into play. There is not necessary clear rules on how the court may rule in each case and advocacy can play a powerful role. You can contact the Santa Rosa law office of Beck Law P.C. online, or call 707-576-7175 for a child custody matter consultation.

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