Dear Annie: I've been a stepmother to two lovely girls, now 12 and 17, ... yet in both cases, it's rare that the child support actually reaches the child.No, that is not the law. I hate to say it, but the law does not require the moms to spend the child support money on the girls. The dad can document it all he wants for his lawyer, but it will not make any difference. California law says that the mom can spend the child support money however she pleases, and does not have to spend a dime of it on the kids.
The amount of child support each mother receives is fair, but is being used incorrectly. The girls continuously need clothes, shoes, haircuts, coats, money for school activities, you name it. It's like my husband is paying child support twice for each child.
My question is this: If the conversation falls on deaf ears with both mothers, is it OK to explain the financial situation to the girls?... — North Carolina Stepmom
Dear Stepmom: To be supportive. Do not involve the children in your dispute over child support. This is not their fault, and they shouldn't be put in the middle of unhappy parents. If your husband feels the support payments are not being used to cover the girls' necessities, he needs to document what he spends for these things and then talk to his lawyer and ask that the support payments be reduced.
Annie is echoing bad advice that is commonly given by court personnel, but is making some unwarranted assumptions. The letter does not say that there is a dispute over child support, or that anyone was suggesting that the girls were at fault, or that the parents are unhappy, or that the girls might be put in the middle of the parents.
If the dad is paying child support, as well as buying clothes and other necessities for his girls, then the girls should be told. They should not be allowed to think that the dad is neglecting them. I had a Jewish psychologist tell me that I should not tell my kids that I am paying child support. It seemed to be some weird Jewish belief of his. It certainly was not based on any psychological knowledge, because I asked him. The overwhelming evidence is that kids don't like it if they think that their dad has abandoned them, and is not contributing to their well-being. This was another example of a supposed expert giving advice based on his own personal prejudices, and contrary to the generally accepted published knowledge.