It is not uncommon in New York for a noncustodial parent who is ordered by the court to pay child support to the custodial parent of their child to complain that the custodial parent spends the money on a host of things other than the child's bare necessities. Contrary to popularly held beliefs, however, child support is not ordered just to provide for the most basic needs a child may have.
Child support can provide coverage for a number of things. Raising a child is expensive and involves more than just providing the child with food and clothing. Shelter needs include a portion of rent or the mortgage, utility costs and other associated expenses. Additionally, a parent may be ordered to pay for a child's medical care as well as any extraordinary expenses not covered by medical insurance.
Raising a child can involve educational costs, such as the cost of supplies, tuition, uniforms and school fees. Child support may be ordered in order to cover a portion of those costs. Additionally, some extracurricular activities such as sports involvement or summer camps require payment and may be covered. In some cases, a court may order a noncustodial parent to help pay for college expenses as well. Child care expenses may be ordered as part of the child support order so the custodial parent is able to attend school or work in order to better the child's life.
Child support may usually be used for anything tangentially related to the care needs associated with raising a child. Noncustodial parents who are struggling with their monthly child support amount may be able to request a modification of it if their financial circumstances have changed. Refusing to follow the existing order, however, is simply not an option. Until and unless a child support order is modified, parents must pay as ordered or risk legal consequences.
Source: Findlaw, "What Does Child Support Cover?", December 29, 2014