Co-parents both support their child financially, so technically, they both pay child support. However, the custodial parent’s costs are likely to be considerably higher, so the child’s other parent contributes to those expenses. 

The court uses complicated guidelines to determine how much the custodial parent receives based on the child’s best interests. So how should he or she spend it? 


According to Massachusetts Legal Aid, the child support payments should help pay for housing. A two-bedroom house or apartment often costs much more than a one-bedroom, and if the custodial parent remains in the family home, the expenses may be even higher. Child support may make it possible to provide the living space the child needs. 

Child support also should cover health insurance and medical costs. If the child has a health condition, the judge may order more support. If the noncustodial parent is the one who provides health insurance coverage, support payments may be lower. Child support should also help to cover child care, education expenses such as school supplies, food and clothing. 

Standard of living

Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines explain that one goal of the judge is to try to balance both parents’ incomes and expenses so that the child enjoys the same standard of living as before the divorce. This may not be entirely possible, as parents are each supporting a household with one income instead of two. 

However, the custodial parent should figure his or her budget with the child’s standard of living in mind. If that includes participation in sports or other extracurricular activities, vacations or social activities, child support may help cover the expenses to make these possible. 

Ultimately, spending child support is up to the discretion of the custodial parent unless he or she does not provide adequate care for the child. Then, the other parent may turn to the court for help in making sure the child receives what he or she needs.