Paying child support is a double-edged sword.  Parents are court ordered to pay but have little, or no, say-so on how it is spent day to day.  There are some court mandated requirements governing child support and because I receive many inquires about it, this is part 1 of a series dedicated solely to child support.

Why do I have to pay medical bills if I don’t even have custody of the child?

Here’s the scenario: You had a child with a former girlfriend.  She has the child and you rarely, if ever, spend time with him.  She takes you into court and you are ordered to pay support and to share in all medical expenses.  How is that fair when you don’t even see – or know –  the child?

The first thing to remember here is that financial support of a child is an entirely separate issue than custody/parenting of a child.  Though the two appear to go hand in hand, they absolutely are not intertwined or dependent upon the other.  Here’s the thought process in the Family Court:

If you are a parent, you are financially responsible to support your child. Though you might get a reduction when you are in financial difficulty, or you may need to adjust the numbers here and there, there are no exceptions to your requirement to financially support the child.  The Massachusetts child support guidelines provide that the custodial parent pay the first $250.00 uninsured medical expenses of the child and the parties share the expenses thereafter.

Custody and parenting time are determined as a completely separate issue.  The Court will not simply grant custody or parenting time due to the fact that you are paying support.  You must make a separate showing that parenting time and/or custody is in the best interest of the child.

That being the case, a parent can absolutely be ordered to pay support for a child that he rarely, if ever, sees (either because the Court refuses parenting time to him or because he chooses not to exercise his parenting time). Is this fair? Well, it may not seem fair but in the Court’s (and the legislature’s) eyes, it is most fair to the child because he only has two people from which he can draw financial support until he is able to provide it for himself.  Always remember that the Court looks to the child’s best interest and protects the child.  Here, the money is for the child and the orders will be enforced.

Do you have more questions on this topic?  Contact me HERE to discuss your situation. Stay tuned because I will have more articles on the complex issue of child support in the upcoming weeks!