What Does Child Support Cover? A Guide for Divorced Parents

When it comes to what child support covers, as with most aspects of child support, there is seldom a universal, precise solution that holds true in all situations following a divorce.

Sometimes, following a contentious divorce, communication between the parents becomes difficult, and the court must intervene by issuing an order specifying the amount of child support that is to be paid. Other times, you might be able to settle on a monetary sum amicably with your ex.

When parents disagree about what costs should be covered or how to handle items that aren’t generally covered by a support payment, it can also become a significant source of tension.

It’s crucial to know what the laws in your state are regarding child support obligations, how they’re calculated, what child support is meant to cover, and how extraordinary costs should be handled by parents following a divorce.

This article provides an overview of the many approaches states take to what child support is used for. However, for more information on the specific laws in your state, you should always speak with a family law expert in your area. and ask them for the specifics of what child support covers in your state.

The Purpose of Child Support

The main purpose of child support is to pay for the essential expenses involved in raising a child or children following a divorce or separation. This is the basic purpose and what child support is meant to cover.

Typically, child support is paid to the other parent rather than the child. Only in specific circumstances can judges order a parent to provide child support payments directly to a kid who has reached adulthood. Judges choose the right arrangements after taking the family’s circumstances into account.

What Does Child Support Cover?

In its most basic form, child support is intended to cover the “normal” costs of taking care of a child. These typical expenses include clothing, food, shelter, transportation, and some educational expenses.

Child support is often only meant to pay for a child’s essential necessities, such as clothing, housing, and food. However, some states permit the payment of child support to cover a wide range of costs, such as the following:

  • basic requirements;
  • health care;
  • education costs;
  • childcare;
  • transportation/travel;
  • entertainment;
  • additional curricular pursuits; and
  • college costs

The cost of raising a child nowadays can be rather expensive, especially in light of factors like growing educational and medical expenses, to name a few. Some typical costs that might be covered by a child support obligation are covered in more detail in the list below.

To find out more about how your child support coverage will be used, it’s necessary to verify the child support guidelines in your county as state child support laws differ substantially.

What Child Support is Used For; The Details

What Child Support is Used For

Clothing is one basic necessity that child support covers

Here is a detailed explanation of what child support is used for

Basic Needs: Food, Clothes, and Shelter

Food, appropriate clothing, and a secure home are all necessities for children. Child assistance can at least be used to buy food like groceries, snacks, drinks, and other stuff. Shoes, jackets, and proper attire can all be bought with it. Also covered by child support are payments for the kid’s related housing expenses (mortgage/rent, utilities, lighting, and phone).

Education Costs (School Fees, Supplies, and Related Costs)

Even if a child attends a public school, there are a number of fees and charges associated with supporting students. As a result, many expenses associated with attending school, including tuition, books, lunch money, and private tutors, may be covered by child support.


Child support may be used to pay for daycare services, babysitters, nannies, or other childcare charges and fees if one or both parents will be unable to care for their children because of issues relating to their jobs. Child care insurance may also cover daycare over the summer, spring break, and certain holidays.


Child support can also be used to cover the costs of essential travel and transportation because children need to move from one place to another safely. The costs of operating a vehicle, such as gas, payments, registration, and insurance, as well as the cost of using a bus or using another mode of transportation, are covered. When a youngster is visiting a non-custodial parent who lives elsewhere, for instance.


A child is generally considered to have the right to basic entertainment, including access to computers, television shows, games, and the internet in addition to trips to cinemas, amusement parks, campgrounds, and other outings. Therefore, in accordance with the parents’ agreement, child support could be used for a child’s age-appropriate entertainment needs.

College costs

Child support may occasionally be used to cover a child’s college costs. According to the logic of several governments, a child’s education shouldn’t suffer as a result of their parent’s separation or divorce. Even if the child has attained the age of majority and is enrolled full-time but hasn’t graduated, these states will normally demand the noncustodial parent to help pay for college.

Extracurricular Activities (Summer Camps, Sports Activities, Etc)

The extracurricular activities of a child which are traditionally those that take place outside of the normal school day, such as summer camp, sports, clubs (such as Girl Scouts), and other unrelated activities may also be covered by child support;

Medical Health Insurance

Most states mandate that parents who are divorced or separated maintain some kind of health insurance for their children. It is traditional to compel the parent with the greater employee-covered insurance to carry the medical, dental, and/or vision insurance plan as a variable regarding what child support is used for.

Medical Health Insurance and Child Support in {State}

Child support covers medical insurance in most states

Uncovered Medical Costs

The cost of uninsured or “exceptional” medical bills may be covered through child support. Any out-of-pocket medical costs that are greater than the price of a minimal health insurance plan, such as co-pays, deductibles, and surgery charges, are some instances of “exceptional” medical expenses.

These and other costs, including those for dental braces, casts, eyeglasses, and other specialized medical treatment, may frequently be covered by child support payments (especially if a child has pre-existing special medical needs). Parents are required to split the expense of further medical care according to state regulations.

What is Child Support Meant to Cover: Other Factors

Even as state and federal laws mandate most of the above expenses to be covered by child support, the judges are still expected to consider certain factors based on their own individual merits before finally deciding what child support is meant to cover. These include:

  • income and financial capacity of a parent;
  • the child’s financial requirements; and
  • the amount of assistance required to keep a child’s current quality of living (if possible).

Even though courts don’t compel custodial parents to demonstrate that the child support payments they collect go toward particular activities, there is an exception in situations where a child’s fundamental necessities are not being provided.

Courts won’t supervise a custodial parent’s spending practices since it is assumed that parents who have physical custody of a child are covering the costs of raising the child.

What Child Support Cannot Be Used For

There are no rules governing what payments cannot be done with child support. This is true since the fundamental tenet of child support is that it should be in the child’s best interests.

There are a few states that do offer a process where parents collecting child support could be asked to explain how they are spending the money, but these processes aren’t used when there are just slight differences in child support. They are mostly when there is a motion for modification of child support.

For instance, under the statutes of some states, judges have the authority to require financial disclosures when it is reasonable or when the paying parent provides justification for an investigation into how the custodial parent is using child support.


Now you should understand the basics of what child support can and cannot be used for. Aside from the child’s basic necessities, there are other needs of the child that can be included, depending on the state. Be sure to return to this blog when next you need to understand anything other than what is child support meant to cover. And always seek expert knowledge from child support attorneys when in doubt.

Child Support Laws in all states

A - Alabama  |  AlaskaArizonaArkansas
C - CaliforniaColoradoConnecticut
D-H - DelawareFloridaGeorgiaHawaii
I - IdahoIllinoisIndianaIowa
K-L - KansasKentuckyLouisiana
M - MaineMarylandMassachusetts |  Michigan |  Minnesota |  Mississippi |  Missouri |  Montana
N - Nebraska |  Nevada |  New Hampshire |  New Jersey |  New Mexico |  New YorkNorth Carolina |  North Dakota
O - Ohio |  Oklahoma |  Oregon
P-S - Pennsylvania |  Rhode Island |  South Carolina |  South Dakota
T-U - Tennessee |  Texas |  Utah
V-W - Vermont |  VirginiaWashington DC | Washington StateWest VirginiaWisconsinWyoming


Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.

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