Sometimes custodial parents commit child support fraud by purposefully underreporting their income to get bigger checks and/or spending the cash they do receive on other things besides child care. If you suspect your co-parent is being dishonest about the support money he or she receives, here are three things to look for that may help you recover the stolen funds.
1. Child-Related Expenses Are Inflated
North Carolina family courts require that parents submit financial affidavits detailing their income, household expenditures, and expenses specific to serving the kids' needs. If the kids go to private school, for instance, the parent should list the school's tuition rate. The courts want to ensure each parent pays their fair share of the cost of the children's upbringing and need the financial affidavit to accurately assess each parent's portion.
In a bid to get a bigger chunk of the paying parent's paycheck, some custodial parents exaggerate the amount of their child-related expenses. They say they spend more on clothing and food than they really do or pad the child's healthcare expenses. The end result is the non-custodial parent ends up paying a higher amount of child support than normal.
You'll receive a copy of the custodial parent's financial affidavit, so take advantage of that and research the expenses listed to ensure they're accurate (e.g. call the school to verify the tuition amount). If you have any doubts, request the custodial parent to produce documentation supporting the numbers if the court hasn't already done so. Point out any discrepancies as soon as you find them. If there is a significant difference between the real cost and what the co-parent wrote on the affidavit, file a petition to have the child support order modified to reflect the true amounts.
2. The Child's Needs Are Neglected
Income custodial parents receive is considered money that can be spent on anything the household needs or wants. But the money the custodial parent receives from child support is meant to cover the expenses of the child for their basic needs. The money you pay in child custody is considered a reimbursement for the cash the custodial parent has already spent on the kid.
While you may not like that your ex is getting her hair styled at the beauty salon every two weeks, it's okay for her to do that as long as the child's needs are being met. However, this extra spending becomes a problem — and possibly a case of child support fraud — the moment the children are deprived of their basic needs due to the custodial parent's mismanagement of funds.
Child neglect is often readily evident. The kids are always hungry or complain about not having food at home. Their clothing is threadbare or don't fit well, or they're suffering from untreated health problems. Meanwhile, the custodial parent always seems to have the latest phone or enjoy other luxuries he or she can't actually afford.
If you suspect your kids are being neglected, contact child protective services (CPS) and your attorney right away. CPS will investigate your claims and you can use their findings to ask the court for custody or have the child support order adjusted.
3. Family Members Are Caring for the Child
Child support is given to the custodial parents to help take care of the kids, so it goes without saying that it would be considered fraud for the parent to receive the money when the children aren't residing with him or her. The state is pretty clear about the fact that child support is for the kids and should be given to the person actually caring for them.
Although the transfer of custody may not be official between your ex and the person caring for the kids, family court will consider the new person to be the kids' caretaker if the children spend the majority of their time with the other individual. For instance, if the kids spend Monday through Friday with their grandparents and weekends with their father, the court may find the grandparents are actually the kids' primary caretakers.
In this case, the child support payments would be transferred to the kids' current caretaker. Additionally, you can sue your ex tor reimbursement of the money you sent him or her.
If you think your co-parent is lying about their income situation or anything related to child support, you need to contact a lawyer. Reach out to Allan Brandon Tise, PLLC Attorney at Law. We can review your case and help you prove child support fraud.