Public policy places a high priority on making parents meet their financial obligations for the support of their children.  Defined simply as a sum of money paid for the care, education and maintenance of a child who is under 21 years of age, child support is considered to be an obligation of both parents. The fact that a court order might direct payment of support by a parent who does not have custody to a custodial parent does not shift the responsibility.

One court was asked to decide if child support arrears collected by a New York City support collection agency could be applied by the custodial parent toward the payment of legal fees owed to an attorney who had formerly represented her. The attorney asked the court in Shipman v. Support Collections to apply in excess of $16,000 of the more than $77,000 collected from the defaulting father toward legal fees as part of an agreement reached with the child’s mother.

The issue, as the court saw it, had to do with the purpose of child support. Did the legislature intend for it to be reimbursement of the custodial parent, in this case the mother, for caring for the child? Citing New York statutes and case law, the court concluded that the legislature never intended for the money to belong to the custodial parent.

According to the court, the legislative intent is that money paid to a parent for child support is entrusted to the receiving parent. The money is not paid to reimburse the custodial parent for caring for a child. It is paid for the benefit of the child, and as such, it is to be held for that purpose and that purpose only.

Money collected from a parent who has defaulted in paying child support belongs for the benefit of the child. The parent cannot use the money to pay an obligation he or she owes to an attorney for legal services even, as in this case, where the services were rendered in establishing paternity.

If you owe or are owed child support payments, then you should seek legal counsel. A lawyer will represent you in court to set up a child support order (if you do not have one already) and to help enforce it. There are many ways to go about this, so it is best to work with an attorney. Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx, New York lawyer with over 31 years of legal experience. He has helped thousands of highly satisfied clients over the years. Call 718-514-6619 to set up a free in-person consultation and visit to learn more about Mr. Lutzky.