We often hear stories of disputes arising between divorced parents over child support, visitation rights, and custody arrangements. However, a recent story that has gained attention on social media highlights a different kind of disagreement that can occur between exes – the question of who should pay for expensive items that a child has damaged or destroyed.
The story involves a mother of two who posted on a popular Reddit forum about an unusual dispute between her and her ex-husband. She explained that her 17-year-old son had returned from a week-long visit with his father and presented her with a $700 bill. The receipt was for a pair of shoes, which belonged to another child, that the couple’s son had accidentally destroyed. In the mother’s absence, the father had assured the child’s family that his ex would cover the cost of the damaged shoes, but was left dismayed when she refused to comply with this arrangement.
Understandably, the mother received mostly replies of support from users on the forum. Some cited that since the accident that had led to the damage happened on her ex’s watch, he should instead be liable to pay the bill. Others commented that the mother had never consented to cover the cost of the $700 pair of shoes, and it was not her ex’s place to make financial commitments on her behalf.
Can he “force” her to pay for the shoes, legally?
In short – no. Just because one parent is legally obligated to pay child support, that does not mean he or she can legally obligate you to pay for anything. Paying child support does not give a parent a right to dictate the other parent’s spending, nor does it obligate the parent who receives support to share in any additional burdens or costs.
“Extraordinary expenses” for child support in North Carolina
“Extraordinary expenses” is a vague term for anything that doesn’t necessarily fall into a neat category when it comes to support. Generally, child support is used to pay for things like food and shelter, insurance, clothing, and other necessities. It can also be used to pay for childcare and other assorted needs for the child.
If you wanted to send your child to an expensive private school, however, or enroll your child in extra-curricular activities like sports or art classes, then these expenses may fall under the category of “extraordinary.” If a court approves these costs, they will be included in the child support obligation as calculated under North Carolina’s guidelines. Medical expenses may also be classified as extraordinary if your child has a severe injury or illness.
Replacing fancy shoes is not part of the child support obligation. It’s not an “extraordinary expense,” either. It’s a decision made by a parent. And if one parent chooses to pay for the replacement, he or she has no legal right to oblige the other parent to share in those costs, regardless of what the child support agreement says.
Do I have any rights regarding child support if I am the payor parent?
Not really. North Carolina does not oblige parents to provide breakdowns of where and how they spend support. There is no exclusionary list, so to speak, when it comes to support. Legally, your co-parent can spend that money on virtually anything as long as it helps provide for your child. It can go toward your co-parent’s rent (you child requires a home), travel expenses to and from extra-curricular activities (the gar requires gas to get your child where he or she needs to go), or hotel expenses for family vacations (to which you were note invited). Legally, you have no say about how your co-parent “must” spend support.
However, there is a difference between your parents treating themselves and their children to a spa day and using the money for themselves while neglecting the child. If you believe your child is being abused or neglected, that is an entirely different scenario. If you see your child in dirty or ill-fitting clothing, or if he or she seems to be ill or suffering in some way, call us. Courts do care about child neglect, and it may be necessary to petition the court for a modification of both child custody and child support if you believe your co-parent is harming your child in some way.
Can I be forced to pay for expensive items my child destroyed?
Perhaps – but it has nothing to do with child support obligations. Whether or not you can be compelled to pay for expensive property your child destroyed would depend on the specific details of the case. Usually, parents can be held liable for the actions of their children if they caused damage to someone else’s property. This is known as “parental liability.” However, the extent of a parent’s liability may depend upon factors such as the specific actions of your child, the actions of the other party, or whether a parent took reasonable steps to prevent the accident from occurring.
For instance, in the case of the $700 shoes, it is possible that neither of the divorced parents are liable. If it can be proven that the other child instigated an altercation, or willingly engaged in roughhousing behavior that led to the damage, a lawsuit against the divorced couple may not stand up in court.
Whether you’d like to contest a claim, or file a claim for damages, you may have a legitimate case that our reputable team of attorneys can work with. At the Epperson Law Group, we have extensive experience helping divorced couples navigate the difficult landscape of property damage claims, child support, and related ordeals. We’d love to hear your story and see how we can be of assistance. To set up a consultation, call our office or fill out our contact form. We work with individuals and families in Charlotte, Boone, Weddington, and Concord.