In-kind child support method may help with accountability

For many parents who pay child support, sending a check each month is both a legal and moral obligation. However, parents may wonder exactly what the child support payment is used for and may want more accountability dollar for dollar. One way Pennsylvania parents and others are finding useful for providing much-needed support and having a say in how the money is used is referred to as in-kind child support.

This form of support refers to a parent directly paying for items the child needs. This can include food, clothing and other expenses bought and paid for outright rather than a monthly payment of a certain amount. A recent study has shown this method to be particularly useful for low income parents who may have trouble coming up with a certain amount by a specific date each month.

While this method may be satisfying for some parents, there are situations where it may not work out so well and can lead to complications. If the parents have an amicable relationship and both parties agree the paying parent will simply buy clothes or pay for certain activities, that agreement may work in the moment. But, as needs change or a child ventures into new activities, it can be difficult to prove who paid for what without a dispute or the payments being viewed as gifts rather than child support payments.

The needs of a child and family will evolve over time. Any child support agreement that works today may not be effective or agreeable down the road. If parents choose to accept or agree to a type of in-kind child support system, each parent may find he or she needs court intervention or a modification when those needs change or the agreement no longer works best for the child.

Source:, “Divorced Dads Give In-Kind Child Support to Feel More Connected to Their Kids“, S.Z. Berg, July 6, 2015