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  • Writer's pictureStephen Williams

Gift-Giving in Child Custody – Part 1: Child Support

What do you do when you want to give your children gifts at the holidays but you owe Child Support? Can I give a gift or is that going to come back and bite me? There’s a couple of different fundamental things at play here…

First, you either owe more or less than $1,000 in Child Support. If you owe less, then, honestly, you’re ahead of the game and can most likely catch a break to invest $50 in the magic of Christmas. If you owe more than $1,000 in Child Support, then the $50 you sling towards a nice gift for your child is unlikely to have much of an effect on your situation, for better or worse, but at least you’ll have captured one of the innocent and pure joys of being a parent.

“Will the Other Side bring this up?” Yup. Why wouldn’t they? Do they look for the best in you and in each situation or take each opportunity to stir up whatever issue they can crowbar out of it? It’s not whether the Other Side will make a big deal out of something, it’s whether the Court would and, even then, it’s even more about making decisions and taking action in line with your priorities. As we’ve preached elsewhere and often, Child Custody is not about avoiding conflict but managing it and being effective in the midst of it.

Since “‘tis better to give…,” the Other Side might construe it as selfish that you took what little “discretionary” funds you had and spent it on something that benefited you, to an extent, rather than just stroking the check to be marginally more compliant with your Child Support obligation. Think about it, the Other Side can play it against you both ways. If you just do one or the other then you’re either not contributing every free cent to catching up on Child Support or you didn’t even get your child a gift at Christmas.

Here’s an idea somewhere in the middle…

  1. Review your current finances – are you good on rent, utilities, priority debts like a mortgage or car payment? You can’t do anything about poor financial decisions you’ve made in the past or even recently, but you can always better understand your current position.

  2. Based on the information in #1, set a Christmas budget. Let’s be conservative and say it’s $60.

  3. Take half of your budget, $30 in our example, drive down to DHR to pay it towards your support arrearage. All that for $30? Absolutely. The amount matters less than the act itself, taking what you had, when you had it. This is sort of evidence in Court thing is rare and impressive to the Courts.

  4. Take the remaining half, $30 here, to Wal-Mart or Target or Amazon and go nuts!

  5. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday and catch up on your support…or maybe even take your lumps…later.

Your child deserves a Merry Christmas and a gift from both parents. If we’re talking about “best interests of the child” then, yeah, being up on your Child Support would be optimal, but don’t compound the crime by mistaking the map for the terrain.

In the long run, you’ll make more memories and be more concerned with the look on your child’s face upon receiving your gift and those little moments of joy that we can’t ever take for granted, especially in Child Custody.


This article contains general information and should not be construed as legal advice for you and or your unique situation. If you would like to speak more about how you, as a Committed Parent or Caring Relative, can be more effective in your Child Custody case, please visit to schedule your initial consultation at one of our offices. ~SW, Foxtrot

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