In some cases, the payment of child support is highly emotional. Some parents who are ordered to pay child support do so with great reluctance. In some instances, the parent ordered to pay child support will purchase items for the children and/or provide funds directly to the children and then attempt to decrease the child support by the amount given to the child. In the Matter of Guri and Guri, the New Hampshire Supreme Court noted that the general rule provides that no credits are allowed for payments directly to children. In making this decision, the Supreme Court reasoned that the parent receiving support should have the discretion to decide how allocate the support payments for the basic needs of the children and the party ordered to pay support should not be to unilaterally interfere with that discretion.
The Supreme Court went on further to acknowledge that there are two exceptions to the general rule, but these exceptions should be applied very cautiously. The court noted that the party ordered to pay child support may be entitled to a credit for payments made directly to the children when: (1) the party receiving child support does not allocate support payments appropriately for the basic needs of the children; and (2) wherein the custodial parent consents to direct the payment to the children.” In both these exceptions, the trial court has discretion to credit the direct payment towards child support arrears.
The key in the decision is that, even in the exceptions apply, it is still within the trial court’s discretion to give the person paying child support a credit for the direct payments. This broad language gives the trial court significant leeway, which should give the parent paying child support a lot of concern. In instances where the parents agree, it is strongly recommended that the agreement be in writing and signed by the other parent. It is also recommended that the person making the payment get a receipt or other documentation that the payment was made either to the child or for the purchased item to have the requisite proof if the issue becomes disputed later.
If you have any questions regarding child support obligations, please do not hesitate to contact an attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss. The attorneys at Hamblett & Kerrigan have experience in handling such situations. Let Hamblett & Kerrigan use their experience to your advantage.
Kevin P. Rauseo is a former director at Hamblett & Kerrigan P.A. and has since been appointed as a Justice for the New Hampshire Circuit Court. Please feel free to contact another attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss your legal issues.