34 answers

Who Should Pay for School Supplies?

To make a very long story short...
My husband works a full time job, pays child support every week. Has continued to pay child support throughout the summer while his daughter has been living with us. He also pays for her health insurance, takes her to the Drs (because mom wont) takes her to the dentist (because at 9yrs old, mom had never taken her) and pays all medical bills (even though court order says its moms job... but she doesnt)
She recently emailed us the list of schools supplies and told us we had to get them because she could afford them. She works 20 hours a week and her live in boyfriend doesnt work at all.
I personally feel like she got 3 months worth of child support while she didnt have a child to support. I personally feel like there is no reason why she cant spend the $30-40 to get the school supplies, especially since she gets over double that every week for child supprt!
Has anyone else out there been through this and what should we do?

2 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you to everyone who responded to my question. There were a lot of things I left out of the request that I think I should have added, but in the end, the supplies were needed. I know child support doesnt go far, and I know its not cheap to raise a child, especially one in school, but this woman doesnt even try. Everytime my husband gets a raise or gets a new job, she cuts back her hours or quits working. SHe was working 2 part times jobs, seemed to be doing good with money... but when my husband got a new job working for the state, she quit one of her part time jobs and cut back her hours at the other because she assumed she would get more money from him. She has 3 kids by 3 different guys and has told us several times her plan it to just stop working and live off the child support she gets. She tells us that all the child support goes to bills because she doesnt make enough. SHe even told us she was going to use the child support to get a marriage licence to marry her 18 yr old boyfriend (mom is 26).
We are currently going to court for full custody because of a lot of other things... social services has been involved...
Anyway... in the end I agreed with what a lot of you all said... and I took my own personal money and took my step daughter out for the night and got her school supplies. I didnt feel like my husband should get them because he already pays a lot of money to help take care of her while mom doesnt do anything, and I knew her mom wouldnt get them...So now, she can go to school with supplies and hopefully will remember the fun night we had together!

Featured Answers

I was once a Step mom. I got a lot of great information on these type of questions from a website called www.steptogether.org Having blended families can be so hard and issues of money and custody can be so contentious. Any Q's you have on ANY subject will be addressed by someone on that site. It helped a lot. Good Luck - S.

1 mom found this helpful

I would just say no. My husband's ex used to ask for a ton and I made him only pay what was fair. No she doesnt ask. If you don't put foot down on "small stuff" she will continue to take advantage.

From what you are relaying to us, it definitely sounds like the mom needs to step up and take some responsibility. Wether she has the money or not, for whatever reasons...she needs to make more effort somewhere. But.. Like S. C said, you don't want the girl to feel caught in the middle, and as if no one wants to get her school supplies. If you can afford it, I would go ahead and do so...just don't make a big deal about it to the daughter, I grew up in the middle of two parents who had issues, and it was horrible! Good luck...

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Hi S.
While I agree that the mom should pay for more than she is, at the same time you don't want to make your daughter feel like a burden because she needs $40 spent on her, especially over something that she needs. Its not like its a new bike or some such. Perhaps if she looks around the house, there are existing office supplies or even school supplies from last year that could be used. No ones going to know that a pen or pencil isn't brand new. However, since school is starting in a few days, my suggestion is to just take her out and get her the supplies that she needs and then your husband and the mom can battle it out later. He could even put in writing that since he spent x amount on her school supplies, that he will be withholding that amount from the next week's support check.
He should also talk to his lawyer about getting the support agreement amended so that things such as summertime payments(when your daughter is with you) and school clothes/supplies are written out in the agreement.
Best wishes

1 mom found this helpful

I was once a Step mom. I got a lot of great information on these type of questions from a website called www.steptogether.org Having blended families can be so hard and issues of money and custody can be so contentious. Any Q's you have on ANY subject will be addressed by someone on that site. It helped a lot. Good Luck - S.

1 mom found this helpful

Yes, your stepdaughter's mother gets paid child support. However, there are a few considerations.

1. $60-$80 a week to support a child when the mother isn't working fulltime or isn't well-paid is not much.

2. Your stepdaughter needs the supplies and there is nothing worse as a kid than being stuck because neither of your parents want to support you.

I was the daughter in the scenario you describe. My dad paid his childsupport on time and paid all my medical bills and paid for my braces and eye glasses (all of which should have been split between them) and paid for college expenses when the time came. Yes, my mother didn't manage money well, but she didn't have it either. My dad, though not wealthy, had a lot more money than Mom and was better pleased not to make me feel uncared for and was certainly more pleased to pay my bills than to pay a lawyer to complain to a court about my mother's financial management. I never forgot what my Dad did. He was generous as a father is supposed to be and didn't let a dispute with my Mom harm my upbringing.

1 mom found this helpful

Being the mother in this same situation, I can see things from her point of view. She is asking for help. I was once the divorced mother living on a part time income and child support. He was just barely paying $125 a week for 2 children and expected me to have to bite the big one and pay for all of everything from medical bills to gas to get them to him every two weeks. The children were told that if they wanted something that mom should get it for them since he was paying so much child support. Yet, you have to think that caring for two children (or one in your case) is expensive (as I am sure you know). There is food to buy, a roof to provide and clothing that they grow out of in was seems like just days. With a limited income, she is having a hard time coming up with the money to get the supplies. Luckily, your step daughter has the support of you and her father. Yes, mom should have anticipated these things that she would need, but at the same time, something could have come up that she needed to use the money to provide something else for this child. I would just get the supplies, and make sure that your husband speaks to his lawyer and asks if it can be slowly held back out of the child support, if that is really an issue, like in $5 or $10 increments. This way, she is not getting her cake and eating it to, but the child is getting what she needs for school. I mean I have seen it go both ways. The mother (or father) with custody is blowing the child's support on themselves, AND that the child support is really not enough even with a decent paying full time job. The important thing here is that this little girl gets the supplies that she needs for school, not who is paying for it.

I am sorry if that sounds rude, but like I said, I have been the mother in that situation and I know how hard it is.

From what you are relaying to us, it definitely sounds like the mom needs to step up and take some responsibility. Wether she has the money or not, for whatever reasons...she needs to make more effort somewhere. But.. Like S. C said, you don't want the girl to feel caught in the middle, and as if no one wants to get her school supplies. If you can afford it, I would go ahead and do so...just don't make a big deal about it to the daughter, I grew up in the middle of two parents who had issues, and it was horrible! Good luck...

Hi S.,

I have been through many similar situations with my ex. In the end, arguing with your husband's ex doesn't sound like it would work (she after all took child support all summer when her daughter wasn't even living with her - I kind of doubt she put it aside for her college fund!). The most important thing is that your stepdaugher not get caught in the middle and feel that because she needs school supplies she is causing a problem. I think your husband needs to pay for them, though it clearly isn't fair, and seek changes in their divorce agreement, such as regarding child support in the summer if his ex. does not have physical custody of your step-daughter.

In my experience, people like your husband's ex. don't come to some realization about themselves and act differently. It seems in these situations ONE of the parents has to be the bigger person for the sake of the child and in this case that sounds like it will be your husband.

Good luck!


Hello. I'm sorry to hear about this situation. Please know I'm not trying to be rude or hurtful here and I may be way off base here but here goes.

What's the issue here? Is this about money? Or is this something deeper? You are fortunate enough to be a SAHM - it's $40. I know it can go a LONG way. Is it the principal of the matter or what? You knew when you married your husband he had another child. Divorce is rarely ever pleasant and when children are in involved, it can sometimes get VERY nasty. It's NOT the child's fault.

In my opinion you have every right to be angry. However, you have a choice to make - to be the responsible adult or the whining, sniveling "new wife". I would chose to be the adult.

This child's mother is obviously irresponsible - if she's not going to school, she should be working full time - but that's my opinion. She shouldn't have a live-in boyfriend either - she has an example to set for this girl. Remember this child is observing EVERYTHING in her world - she'll be mimicking it soon enough - which world do you want her mimicking - yours or her biological mothers?

It's obvious you do not like this woman. However, it IS obvious you love this child! I hope you don't show any ill-will when you talk on the phone with her, etc. as the child will be listening, watching and picking up.

I was a step-mom before. However, I fell in love with my daughter (I met her dad when she was 9 months old and her parents were separated) and we gained sole-custody of her. Her biological mother never worked and it seemed that "E" never had clothes that fit her, diapers, etc. even though my then-husband was paying her child support.

My daughter's biological mother lived in a different state, we paid for her to come to a birthday party. She ALMOST didn't make it.

Your step-daughter, obviously needs guidance, love and support from a woman. That should be YOU. Do NOT EVER say anything negative about her mom in front of her or if there is a chance she can hear it. Be polite when you pick her up and drop her off, etc. NOTE EVERYTHING (lack of responsibility, part-time employment (especially if she's NOT going to school, condition of home environment, lack of financial responsibility, live-in leach of a boyfriend, etc.), lack of taking child to Dr's, etc. and get custody so that YOU can give this child a warm, loving environment.

You are fortunate enough to be a SAHM. You have an opportunity to make a HUGE difference in this girl's life. Suck it up, pay for the supplies and everything else she needs (note I said NEED not WANT - you will be teaching her responsibility and many other things as well) give her your love generously.

DO NOT complain about buying the supplies - she will end up respecting you and following your lead and example - which is what I would hope you want - for her to be a successful member of society rather than a leach.

Being in your situation is NOT easy. It's all about attitude. A child's welfare is at stake here - it's not about the school supplies, it's about a child who needs your support. I would fight for sole custody so hard - a child deserves and needs a good example, love and support.

I'm sorry this is long and drawn out. I truly don't believe this issue is about who pays for what. Any animosity you harbor towards this woman isn't going to help you or the child. Set a great example for the child. Give her what she needs.

I think you should take the high road. In addition, this is between the other two adults. It is not your child, so how would you feel if your ex-spouse's spouse were making plans to get custody of your two year old? It is noble of your husband to take care of the needs of his child. Let her enjoy her childhood.

Well it sounds like her father is paying more than his share. She should def. pay for school supplies. She is using him and taking money unfairly. If she isnt handicapped or ill then she should also get a full time job so she can afford the things her daughter needs. I would be sure to document all that you mentioned for the next court hearing. Make sure the judge is fully aware that the father is doing above and beyond his duty and ask the judge to demand that the mother step up to the plate for once.

oops i see my reply is late. i just read your update. well kudos for you for stepping up to the plate, make sure her mother knows you stepped in and filled her shoes for her. and best of luck for getting custody.

The only one who will suffer if you make a big deal out of this is your beautiful 9 yr old young lady, who is already suffering unimaginably because of her life circumstances. It's not worth any amount of money to have her suffer more. What should you do? Always make choices that are best for her, regardless of what you may have to go through. Sounds like her daddy, your husband, is a quality man who believes in taking care of his family and that you are a mature, intelligent woman who puts her responsibilities and priorities in the right place. Keep it up.

Dear S.,
As a single parent of four grown children whose ex-husband only came through with 11 months (out of 14 years worth due me) of regular monthly child support, I say to you, 'Don't sweat the small stuff!'
Additionally, because there is a child at stake (who, by the way, isn't of age to support herself), don't even sweat the big stuff!
One final comment: fighting to get monies out of someone so resistant may not be worth it overall! Consider first the emotional wear-and-tear (before deciding) on your spouse, his child and you!
Hope this helps!
J. F.

First, find out what Dad is legally responsible for. In the agreement, it might be that he has to provide for school related expenses.

Otherwise, yeah, I feel Mom is being freeloader, for lack of a better term. If she can't afford these school supplies, what does your daughter eat? Where does all the money go? Maybe, if your situations are good, you could consider full support of her and get Mom and her boyfriend out of the picture.

It is not fair that you should have to get the school supplies, however, you don't want the little girl to feel like no one wants to get her school supplies for her. If the mother can't/won't get them take the girl shopping and make sure she has everything she needs to feel comfortable at school. She may not fully understand and appreciate what you are doing right now but she will when she is an adult. you will have provided a loving example for her and memories she can look back on that show that you valued her.

I think it her responsibility. That's what child support is for. To get the things your child needs and to support their needs financially. If my son's father paid his child support, it would have gotten my son's fall wardrobe and his enrollment into his new preschool. He is also responsible for providing additional healthcare, but of course that hasn't been done either.


My advice would be to pick your battles, becuase I'm sure by the sound of it, there are more to come. If the supplies are $30-$40 I would just get them. Make it a special bonding trip, (my daughter has so much fun picking out her supplies I enjoy it as well) she is 10. Besides, things will come out in the end.

I can see why you would be annoyed. If she said, "I appreciate what you are doing and have done. Could you get the school supplies because I'm having a hard time making ends meet?" I'll bet you would be happy to do it.

But I would go ahead and get the school supplies and be done with it. It will be easier on you and your step daughter to just move forward.
Best of luck!

if it were my daughter id be fighting for custody sense her mom doesnt seem to be able to take care of her. if this is her only child there is no reason she cant be working the whole time the child is in school. and the boyfriend living in my childs house would not be tolerated. go back to court and get a ruling on who pays what and then follow it. if it says she has to pay certain things then make her. if you have to tak it out of her child support then do it. the court wont be able to find you didnt pay if you did. if her mom ont get school supplies you go get them and take it out of her check. maybe next time she will do it on her own. same with them medical bils. take what she owes you out of her child support. she obviously can affort to support a grown man, she can afford to support her own daughter.

That beautiful 9 year old young lady is very lucky to have you and her Daddy to care for her the way she should be cared for. Shame on her mother for not doing her JOB.

Wow that situation sounds less than ideal. Your husband mmay want to get things reevaluated with the courts because she doesn't seem to taking any responsibility for her child. To get to the present situation though, I think what I would do is to get the things on the list and hang onto them. He should let her know that those sort of things are what his support checks are for. If she still refuses to get them he should let her know that he will be getting things reevaluated and make sure to give his daughter the items she needs. She shouldn't suffer for her mothers refusal to take responsibilty. I would also say not to make it an empty threat or she won't take it seriously and things will stay the way they are. Good luck.

Hi S.!

This, as they say, is a 'sticky wicket'! I went back, and took the liberty of reading thru some of your other posts. As I understand it, mom and dad were never married...and you are in the midst of a custody fight...Yes?

In that case, if YOU really want custody, I would simply pay for the school supplies graciously...save the receipt for the supplies, and make sure it comes up in the hearing. Certainly the child should NOT be in an uncomfortable position in either case...

I am sure the reason for continued child support is two fold...One, your hubby would have to go back to court (and pay for lawyer and costs) to 'request' a reduction in support. Hardly worth it for the summer I should think...and IF still in midst of custody battle...Not good form I would think.

I am gonna say one more thing though...and I hope I do NOT offend...In my reading of your 'requests' (4 of 9 were about this step daughter as I recollect), I am NOT feeling 'warm and fuzzies' between you and the mom (clearly), but wonder how you feel about your step daughter...I know in cyber it is hard to pick up on things (no facial expressions, body language, personal observation etc), but for some reason I sense that you do not like this little girl much. Certainly, you do not like some of her behaviors (sneaking food specifically)...and have many VALID concerns about the mom (IMO)...but I would hate to think you and hubby would get custody, and come to resent the child as time goes on.

9/10 yo is by and large an 'easy' time with kids...but soon the proverbial 'hormones' set in, followed by the inevitable teenage years (5 teens here at the moment...geesh...and all while I am menapausing!!! God's little hormonal joke!). Things will only become MORE challenging! Even under the BEST of circumstances....

Trying NOT to make value judgements...just felt I needed to suggest some things for your consideration. Bottom line, IMO, pay for supplies with a smile on your face...document...and save receipts!

Take Care

I am a divorced mom of 7 kids (and yes...all the same dad I was married to for over 18 years) and TRUST me...child support is never enough to keep up with the needs of kids!!)

I agree with you paying and saving the receipt, as many have mentioned. However, my son's school does give supplies to needy families that are sponsored by the PTA and they receive a box from Staples on the first day of school. Also, churches often sponsor schools and supply school goods to needy families. Might be worth checking into if available. Sounds like she does not have much money and you mentioned child support is twice the cost of supplies weekly - really if thats true I couldn't take care of my son on 100 a week and working part time. Even with free rent. Child care costs, food, gas and clothing would eat up that amount immediately. Also if you do have a full time job in Maryland you are eligible to apply for childcare vouchers from the state that pay in full for approved childcare after three paystubs through Social Services. Also, the child may be eligible for Medicaid based on her income and child support if she is custody. So you would not be paying out of pocket for medical. Finally, not sure where she lives, but the Ho. Co. Public School System pays for full benefits for most jobs, and you dont have to have childcare if you work at your child's school as days working are always the same as school days. Check out the website for job hotline number and call every Wed and Fri. I know you cannot force the mother to become responsible, but there are options other than asking dad to pay all the time while you are waiting for custody.

I think "catwalk" said it all! Buy the school supplies, save the receipts and document everything the mom does so you have "ammo" when it comes time to go to court.
Just curious, how does the mom afford to take care of this child if she can't even afford the school supplies after not having her for 3 months? Interesting....

Hi S.,

I've been there - still am. And, my husband's Ex makes more than we do! She nickel and dimes every little item, despite the court order that indicates what she must pay. Most of the time my husband makes her stick to the order. But, when the court order is silent, he offers her a compromise because going back to court or even to a mediator is more expensive (in time and money) than just trying to work it out. Unfortunately, the negotiation process rarely works and we end up paying way more than she does. So, I know what you are going through.

However, I will say this - the most important thing is the child. It is so easy to lose sight of that when the other parent is a jerk or a loser. In the end, your stepdaughter needs these supplies to go to school and not be embarrassed or ill-prepared. Sadly, if her mother refuses to contribute to any of it, I'd say just pay it. It's not really worth the fight. In the end, your stepdaughter will know how her dad (and you) consistently came through for her and that's the best feeling of security a child can get. That's a gift that's really priceless - that you and he can give to her - that will last her whole life.

Your other, unspoken issue is -- how you make peace with this. Unfortunately, I have no answers for that one because I continue to struggle with it myself. If you figure that one out, please share. ;)

The bottom line is that your step daughter has a lot of needs that are not being met by her mother. She needs school supplies. I would get them for her, but I would also take a look at if her living with her mother is the best choice for her. Your step daughter is watching her mother and learning that this behavior is ok & normal (to not work and support a man that doesn't work either). I would talk to my lawyer about what your options may be. I am sorry, it is so hard to be involved in this type of situation. Good Luck

PERSONALLY, I think she should pay. I'm in the same situation. That's what the child support is there for, isn't it? Sad, though, if you don't pick up the supplies - the child will go without. Could you deduct from next months payments? Could you have her itemize what she bought the kids all summer that they were with you? (She could turn around and say that she had to maintain the house that they live in...blaa...blaa...blaa). Its a sticky situation. Now my step-kids are 17 and 15. And both want a car.

A lot of the other posters about this issue are correct. It's just a small amount of money to spend on the supplies and I would just go ahead and get them. As they also said, it's a special bonding trip you, your husband and his daughter will share.

My parents got divorced when I was 5 (I lived with my mother) and I was in the middle of arguments over school supplies and clothes, etc. quite a bit (so was my sister once she entered school). But, to be honest, if I were your husband, I would get the supplies, KEEP THE RECEIPT and possibly deduct it from the support he owes his ex. If he has to send the support to the state, first, have him send in the receipt with the check. If he doesn't have to send it to the state, just put a copy of the receipt with the check he sends her. That's something sort of what my father would do when he paid my mother child support. Though, in my situation, it was my grandmother (my father's mom) who took us shooping and she gave him the receipts to hang onto and when they went to court over something, he'd whip em out.

Anyways, this may be another option, but, in the end, it's all about the child and go ahead and get them for her and make it a special time. :-) Good luck!

I believe that the child support should be used to pay those expenses, but I don't know how much your hubby actually pays in child support. If the mom is having such a hard time, perhaps she should work more hours, encourage her boyfriend to work OR consider switching custody agreement to where she is the "part time parent".

What about a compromise of her buying half the stuff and your hubby buying the other half?

i have 2 children-9 and 8. my current and i struggele. my kids father does well for himself. however, he pays child support-always on time, pays medical ins., and rarely but IF and when i need help for other things he's always willing. didn't make the best husband but is a good dad and always there for the kids needs. however, i would never take advantage of this and never have. that being said i can tell you 100% without a doubt this lady should be taking care of all she is orderded to. that is what the child support is for. not for her to spend however, but for the children. period. like i said i struggle financially, probably more than most, and still find a way to take care of my kids. they come first. if she can't step and be a parent (take child to drs!!!that terrible) maybe your husband should have them full time. sounds like this mom has her cake and eating it too. definitly taking advantage of your husbands dedication to be a good dad! good luck.

I would just say no. My husband's ex used to ask for a ton and I made him only pay what was fair. No she doesnt ask. If you don't put foot down on "small stuff" she will continue to take advantage.

Hi, S..

I hear your frustration. It sounds like this mother does not have a history of good decision making or priority setting.

While the mother probably should and could pay for the supplies, I think you and your husband should just go ahead and pay for them.

I'm sorry to hear you are having such a tough time! It's not often the dad fills in for the mom's jobs, but it does happen. My mother was a single mom and she never asked for money from anyone that way she could raise her children her way with no one to interfere. Raising a child is extremely expensive, especially when child care is involved, but in this case I think it's time to re-settle. She is only 9 years old and with many years to go, I think it would be worth the cost of a lawyer to get full custody. It shouldn't mean that the mom will not get to see her daughter, but that she can visit or have her stay with her whenever she wants and your husband won't need to pay anymore because the daughter is living with you. I've seen this happen a few times and it works out better for everyone since there's no more money arguments. Good luck!

Hi S.,

Unfortunately there's not much you can do if the ex-wife is unwilling to pay for the school supplies. I'm sure if you guys didn't buy them she would in time provide what her daughter needs, but I found in my case they're always able to picture us as the bad side. We also pay the same child support amount during the summer months when they spend it with us.

Good luck.

As a divorced Mother my ex had to pay child support even when she spent the summer with him. The reason behind that is that the primary residence for the child has to still be maintained. As for school supplies it was explained to my current husband who is paying child support that the child support is all he is required to pay and anything more is a "gift".

I think if I were your husband I would go back in for custody because he is the one who is doing everything for the child. Just my thoughts, all states are different.

I saw your update so I know that my response is a bit late but I still wanted to reply. Even without your update, I wanted to say that it is wonderful to hear of a dad who steps up and takes care of things. I am sure he is not the only one but definately not the norm in this day and age. My son's father has paid only the minumum (actually less than the recommended) for years, provides health insurance but has never paid his portion of other items, isn't involved, and can't be counted on. I have always worked full time, went into debt if necessary to provide what was needed, while he has been known to just quite his job and after remarrying and having another child, his wife didn't work at all (which was great for her to be able to be home with their child...just frustating when there were times of no support from Dad).

I agreed with what you said that she received support for times when the daughter wasn't even with her but the child (not the mother) still needed the supplies. Kudos for you for recognizing that and making a fun event out of it.Glad to hear you have filed for custody since it would seem a better situation.

By the way, if she lives off child support there will come a day it will come to an end and then have little to now work history. Hope her yound man is rich!

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