You’ve been paying child support to your former spouse for the past seven years and you’ve never missed a single payment. Now your son is starting college. Shouldn’t you be able to start making payments directly to him at school? He’ll have all kinds of expenses he’ll need to cover and no way to get any money, since you’ve told him you don’t want him working in his first semester.
Can Child Support be Paid Directly to a Child?
The short answer: no.
Here’s the longer version. When you were ordered (or when you agreed) to pay child support, that obligation was directed towards your former spouse (or the other parent of your child) and not towards your child. Missouri law says that both parents have an obligation to contribute towards a child’s support. Child support represents the paying parent’s portion of that obligation. It’s the parents, and not the children, who have to provide such things as food, clothing, and shelter for the children.
Therefore, when your former wife gets her monthly check from you, she is to use that as a portion of the money available to pay for such things as housing costs, utilities, insurance, car expenses, food, and clothing. And a portion of each of those items goes for the benefit of your children. When Junior heads off to college, your ex- still has to pay for all of those things, even though your son now has additional expenses at school.
In many cases, both parents are contributing to the cost of college tuition, books, room, and board. Therefore, both parents’ expenses have gone up. Or, to look at it another way, the only expense that has gone down for your former wife is the cost of feeding your son at her house. She is still paying her mortgage and utilities, still providing clothing. Your child support will continue to help her pay for those things.
In a small number of cases, judges may permit a parent to make child support payments directly to the child. This could happen, for example, where the paying parent is also covering 100% of the cost of college. It is not up to the paying parent to decide to switch where the check is sent, however. Only a judge can make this change.
If you would like to have your payments made to your child instead of your former spouse, you will need to file a motion with the court asking for this change, something that should only be done after consultation with a lawyer experienced in family law issues.