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My parents are divorced and my dad has to pay to my mom financial support for everyone in the family. Because I moved out, my dad removed part of this financial support that he gives my mom. She is now asking that I give her the money that my dad doesn't give her anymore.

I "escaped" this month by saying that this is my first pay and I still have to figure out the expenses for my living. I expect her to ask me for the money next month. Don't get me wrong. She supported me in every situation and I want to help her. I have a relatively high salary and I could give her the money without any struggle for my "survival". But I don't want to give her money forever. I want to help her until she can find a way to get the money herself.

How do I help her without being treated as a "money cow" and without being a forever monthly ATM machine for her?

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    "my dad has to pay to my mom a financial support for every person in the family*. Was this child support? (If so, then once you left, #1 her expenses were reduced, so she shouldn't need the money, and #2 should should have this coming and adjusted.) – RonJohn Sep 25 at 13:02
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    Also, this sounds more like it belongs in the Interpersonal Skills SE. Regardless of that, I sympathize with your plight, and doubt you'll find a solution -- other than doing what she wants -- that will satisfy her. – RonJohn Sep 25 at 13:05
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    This sound like a better question for Interpersonal Skills – user71981 Sep 25 at 14:19
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    And it also sounds like you need to talk to your father. THere may be a slight issue with your mother lying (mine did) - your father should be able to forward you the exact arrangement he has with your mother. Likely she considered YOUR money to be her piggy bank (which she partially spent on you). Mine did. Was seiously surprised when her 19th buirthday "this is how much you cost me since your father divoced me" turned into "ok, where is the rest as per legal arrangement you did not even spend all my fathers money AND you agreed to match his spending, wich you did not". – TomTom Sep 25 at 14:26
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    @JanDoggen "What do I say?" questions are outlawed there. IPS is one of the most finicky stacks, very tightly moderated by Be Nice Policy. It is the very opposite of a dumping ground for misfit questions. More of a dumping ground for misfit Be Nice Policy, Be Nice Policy... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 25 at 22:30

11 Answers 11

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Your father was giving your mother money intended to be spent on your food, clothing, textbooks, and so forth. Your mother no longer has these expenses. The only expense that remains for her is rent (or property tax), considering there is probably now an empty, redundant bedroom in her home. The extent to which your mother was also expected to contribute to your support would be a matter for the divorce settlement, since it would depend in part on your parent's relative income.

Allow me to add my voice to those saying you owe your mother nothing. In fact, demanding money from a child fresh out of the house in a first job suggests to me that an alarming sequence of unreasonable demands is just beginning. You can help your mother with budgeting, since (like other replies) I suspect she has been spending far less on you than implied by the child support agreement, and converting the rest to her own use. So she may need to downsize. I would not send her a nickel of cash.

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    She owes her mother kindness and respect. But not money. – RonJohn Sep 25 at 19:42
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    In fact, dad's payment should have been half of the expenses of your upkeep, so if she was really spending 2x the payment on you, she should be very happy with you gone, since she is now 1x ahead of the game. If she is now complaining that loss of the money has left her impoverished, clearly she wasn't spending it on you! She was misspending it and needs to give it all back, going back years. If she sued to get that payment I would countersue saying just that. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 25 at 22:26
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    @Harper: It's probably the rent. She needs to rent something smaller now. – Joshua Sep 25 at 22:47
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    @Harper Thankfully most lawyers are not stupid and will not even take the case. One look at the divorce settlement and the lawyer will know that the mother mis-spent the money and will tell her right away! Then if the lawyer is really that stupid, a judge isn't going to let that pass. Thankfully there really should be almost no risk of being sued for this money. – Nelson Sep 26 at 0:02
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    Money may not have been misspent but used to pay for a share of rent and other fixed incomes that aren't reduced proportionally when the child leaves. – Pere Sep 26 at 21:24
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I have no problem with you helping your mother but only under the following circumstances:

  • You have enough room in your budget to help out. You should not go into debt or sacrifice your necessities to support your mother.
  • Your dad is not legally obligated to help. If he is, she should pursue that first.
  • She needs the help. Is this money from your dad that would have supported you? If you're on your own now, then she doesn't need that full support.
  • Don't give her a "monthly payment". Give her what she needs. If she needs car repairs, pay for that. If she needs food, take her shopping. Take her and your siblings out to dinner from time to time.
  • Look over her budget with her. If she's not willing to share that (possibly because she doesn't have one, possibly because it would expose irresponsibilities) then you may just be compounding a deeper problem.

The point here is not to neglect your mother, but to make sure she is being responsible with what she does have and is not taking advantage of another source of money.

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    Another option is to pick a monthly bill and pay it. The internet bill or something similar with relatively fixed cost is better than a power or gas bill where it may blow-out. – Criggie Sep 26 at 2:40
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    @Criggie That's just the same as paying her a fixed "do what you want" sum. Judging by the way she is described here, she is not the type who would be conscious of that, but her spending habits would show it. While I absolutely abhor invasive state aid that works like that, I think in the case of family members it makes sense. – Nobody Sep 26 at 10:50
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    I don't agree with the first point. This is a personal decision, not a matter of dictum. While some might share your view, others might take the view that you should be willing to make sacrifices to help your family. (validity of your other points notwithstanding). – JBentley Sep 26 at 11:55
  • @JBentley That's why I said "sacrifice necessities". I agree, one can (and maybe should) sacrifice discretionary spending to help family, but you should not (IMHO) go into debt or sacrifice food, shelter, etc. (especially if any of the other conditions are broken) That just moves the burden from one family member to another. – D Stanley Sep 26 at 13:10
  • +1 for point 4! Helping out when she has a heavy month by picking up a repair or food shop is a great way to not become a "money cow" – Bee Sep 26 at 13:17
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"Mom, that sort of thing is court-ordered."

Tell her that she will need to go back to court to have the divorce settlement modified. You will be happy to comply with any court order, of course.

The money in question is child support. It reflects that the cost of living with a child is higher than living alone. Obviously, if you move out, that has a big effect on the child support claim!

Otherwise, you could have a big mess: Mom demanding the child support from your father, Mom also demanding it from you, and Dad demanding it from you to boot! That's why families don't resolve such things themsevles, it's done in court to assure fairness.

(Hint: No judge on earth is going to require a child to pay child support for his own self after he's moved out. That simply will not happen. But telling her that is obviously a waste of breath. She needs to hear it from the judge, or her own trusted attorney.)

So Mom needs to go back to her divorce lawyer and ask for a modification of her child support so she collects it from you instead of him. The legal process will notify all parties, and each will be given an opportunity to argue their case.

But you have given her a roadmap to get there.

Don't overlook what she is doing

She may actually be spending money on you that you aren't thinking about. Where is your cell phone service coming from? How about your auto insurance? How about your health insurance/FSP/dental? It is cheaper for your family to get these things together than each having standalone cell phone plans, car insurance and health insurance. Make sure you do pay her your fair share of those.. However, if you cannot reach a fair agreement on how to share those costs, then get your own independent one and cut ties.

Giving people money is no kindness

Wish people well all you like, but you do them no favors by giving them money, you simply become an enabler to their unwillingness to confront their own situation. Mom's plan for her financial piccadillo is "kick the can down the road", keep things the same one more month and solve those problems later. Of course, later will never come because it doesn't have to come.

The child support was supposed to pay half her cost of your upkeep. If she was actually spending that money on you, she should now be "ahead" her half of that expense since you are gone. Methinks she was not spending the money on you, but on herself.

The old quote "Give a man a fish and he will not be hungry for a day." was too polite to mention that tomorrow you'll have a hungry man demanding another fish!

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    While I upvoted your answer, where in the world did you get the idea that Jesus said that??? – RonJohn Sep 25 at 23:26
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    I learned it as "Give a man a fire and he'll be warm for a day. Light him on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." but you know, cultural differences and all. – corsiKa Sep 26 at 2:10
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    "The old quote "Give a man a fish and he will not be hungry for a day." was too polite to mention that tomorrow you'll have a hungry man demanding another fish!" ... typically there is a second line to that quote which addresses your concern. – JMac Sep 26 at 12:16
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    Regarding children never being obligated to pay for their parents: That's not universally the case. There are jurisdictions where children might have to pay for their parents, especially when they need permanent elderly care. – Philipp Sep 26 at 13:45
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    Great answer. -- "Don't overlook what she is doing" sets this answer apart from the rest. Consider moving it to the top of your response. Another +1 for pointing out "giving people money is not kindness". – psaxton Sep 26 at 15:04
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First and foremost: this might be a legal issue, not a financial one. In most locales, support payments like this are part of the formal divorce settlement. Someone needs to locate a copy of that settlement document and read over what the specific terms are for these payments. Those terms will play a big part in what happens next.

If your father's payments are considered child support, then the divorce settlement should spell out specific conditions under which he no longer has to pay ("until age 18", "as long as they're a legal dependent", "as long as they live at home", etc). If those conditions have not been met, then your father has no legal basis for reducing his payment. This becomes an issue between your parents and has nothing to do with you. If these conditions have now been met, then your father is allowed to reduce his payments. You're certainly not required to make child support payments to your mother, so this becomes an interpersonal issue between you and your mother (and possibly a budgeting issue for your mother).

If your father's payments are considered alimony, then the specifics will vary greatly from case to case and from locale to locale. The divorce settlement document should spell out all of the details.

The important part is that everyone understands these payments are defined by a court-approved legal settlement and any changes to the payments must be in strict accordance to the terms of that settlement. You would be wise to postpone making any decisions until you've had a chance to ensure everybody is still following the terms that both parties agreed to follow. Legal fees and/or fines from the court aren't going to make this situation any easier.

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    This answer is spot-on, it's a legal issue and the court orders in effect dictate what should happen. – Ubercoder Sep 26 at 7:16
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Either your father paid Child support with a certain amount per every child. And final amount have changed since you moved out.
You need to be aware that in such case such money were designed to cover all YOUR needs. So by moving out you also removed your mother need to pay for you. Those money were yours money only to be managed by your mother according to your need.

An example. In my country every GP doctor get a set amount of money per month per every patient that have signed with them. No matter if the patient visit the doctor or need his help. Your mother request is like said doctor requesting reimbursement from former patient who unsigned with them because they want to keep the same income.

Second option is that your father is paying your mother alimony. And he changed the amount based on his personal opinion that without you in the house the amount should be lower. Then this is issue between your mother and him and you shouldn't be involved.

I think that what you need to do is to go through your mother budget and point out that the amount she is receiving is proportional to need of her and her children in the household. And if she exceed those need by some expenses she should:
a) calculate if the problem is because the amount of money father pay was set before some utility prices change, or there are expenses not calculated in (chronic illness of a child, extra long travel etc).
b) She have calculated her basic expenses without taking into consideration that source of the income will dry out. Then she need help in rearranging her financial expectations.

Have in mind that part (or whole) amount of money she supported you with come from your father so it's not a topic of "repaying".

Final solution - sit with your mother and go through her monthly budget. Point out positions that need to be changed/adjusted/removed accordingly with your departure.
If you decide to help her financially set a time bracket till you will do that. For example 6 months until she should have her budget fully adjusted to accommodate new income. With that also set (YOU SET) amount of help you will give to her.
That way you will be able to set that amount in YOUR budget. And you will give final date when your regular support will stop.

  • Having a person who just moved out on their own (and thus probably doesn't yet have the experience of how much things really cost) go through their mother's budget is of dubious value – RonJohn Sep 25 at 14:53
  • @RonJohn I have more trust in such person ability to balance a budget than in mother who want to be reimbursed for the "lost income". – SZCZERZO KŁY Sep 25 at 15:02
  • They might have more ability, but the bar is pretty low. (After all, balancing a budget is nothing more than addition and subtraction.) The key is knowing when something is too expensive, and a young person on his or her own might not know that yet. – RonJohn Sep 25 at 15:04
  • @RonJohn That's when a "Me" element is key. If you have X amount for food for 4 people if you subtract one (Me) then you can see that X buy too much food. Same with clothing, utilities, medical bills. And person who start fresh would also realize what are probable expenses they are going to face. It's not like "you're spending too much on clothes" but more "I will be clothing myself so that expense should be lowered". – SZCZERZO KŁY Sep 25 at 15:13
  • Someone who has just started independent life doesn't have the experience to budget for all expenses over a year. Will they know how much heating and lighting costs change between summer and winter? Will they know about once-a-year costs for things they were never responsible for at all? Most likely not. – alephzero Sep 25 at 21:40
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Do you have any sibling? Check how you not paying will affect them. Help them directly. Talk to them regularly, learn what they really need, what they want in life, etc. Save money for their college/studies. Pay extra tuition for them if they fall behind in studies. Give them money for spending on their own. Long term

That money was child support, not mother support.

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I'm going to try to answer this more from the purpose of this site. Financial advise more than family advise, but some of that too.

First off, do what you feel you need to. I would take care of my mom too, but I am also 40 years old. When I first started working I had no idea how many times I would be tightly budgeted, plain out of work, or having multiple jobs because one wan't enough. You're young. You WILL lose your job or choose to go to another some day. If not that, then other needs like housing, transportation, medical things, etc could also make your income less stable. If she develops a dependency on an assured cash flow from you it could send her to the streets the one month you can't help out. Obviously neither of you want that.

So here's what I would do. I developed a few passive revenue streams for myself over the past 10 years or so. Anyone and everyone can and should do this for themselves and impart the information upon anyone they care about. Not do it for them, mind you, but explain how they can do it themselves and even help get them started if they aren't confident they can.

Personally, I make things and sell them online. Things I do when watching TV or in my down time. For the sake of this discussion, let's just call them arts and crafts although it can be technical things, buying and selling actual tangible products or making coloring pages to sell in digital packs on etsy... yes, that's a real thing.

The digital items are best because you make them once and they just keep trickling cash into your account and you do nothing. Those are harder to set up, but they are plentiful and all it takes is a little poking around ebay and etsy to get an idea. I have about 30 of them, all my own designs, and I make $10 - $20 a month from just those alone.

I also make pillows. They take about 15 minutes to sew, cost about $5 to make and sell for about $30. I make a ton of other things as well and they generate between $800 - $1200 a month give or take. I spend maybe an hour a day making, packing and shipping things. That is not too much to ask from anyone for that kind of financial support.

I bet your mom could use that kind of cash flow, and I bet you don't want it to be coming from you.

Ok great, so how do you tell someone all they need to do is make stuff and sell it online? If it were that easy everyone would be doing it. Thing is - everyone is doing it. That's why sites like ebay, etsy, and to some degree amazon exist and are thriving. Because the people to people marketplace is huge and there is a market for almost everything you can think of.

I got started by buying a $200 sticker machine. I drew some silly stickers. They started selling. I spent the income on newer and better equipment to make other things. Those things made money too and eventually built up to what I make now, which I am comfortable with and don't really want to get any deeper. It took me about 6 months to build up a unique store front that made about $300 a month and ever since then I just keep on experimenting with other "arts and crafts" just to diversify so I don't exhaust one particular category of goods.

I sell on amazon, ebay, etsy, and my own sites that I build on my own. The first 3 anyone can set up with minimal effort and begin selling today. I strongly suggest you set that up with her even if she has nothing to sell yet. Just getting started is the biggest hurdle for a lot of people. They think it will be too hard, or they dont like computers or whatever. Do not let her use this excuse. It is so easy anyone can do it.

Now about her. Everyone has hobbies, interests, or things they like to collect themselves. I started by asking myself "what do I want and why can't I provide that for others." My first products were jokes. Poo shaped pillows, stickers with semi-offensive statements conventional companies dont want to risk saying. Or just snarky coloring pages. They all sold and some sell very well. Your mom has something, be it a talent or an interest, she can supply for the world with very little effort. It's between you and her to figure out what those are. Start by exploring ebay and etsy to see if others are selling them and if you can compete.

From there, consider a little quality time by making them with her and seeing about getting her moving on her own. You may have to explain the volatility of your income stream and that she cannot rely on it in the long run, but for now, you can help her set all this up and see about filling in the difference between sold items and what you provide. The intention would be to replace what you provide with a good store front on a few sites and surpass that to the point of self reliance.

I also advise to put aside any difference you would have given her and roll them into safe investments like CDs or some other simple maturing compounding interest bank option. There are many. If you have already resided to the notion of helping her out, then you know what you can afford to spin into an investment. If nothing else, should you or her ever hit a critical point, you at least have something you can fall back on.

My brother got me into this. I got some family and friends into it. All of us say it is life changing and all of us make some kind of passive income just coming up with our own ideas and putting them out there. We can't all be anomalies. This will work for your mom too if she is willing to put the effort in. Do it with her and she will be all the more likely to succeed and alleviate you from what could be a very difficult long term financial commitment.

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First, you need to sit down with your mother and your father, possible separately, to understand the situation.

Then, you need to sit down with your mother and work on a budget with her. If she is asking for your financial support based on needs, it is reasonable that you understand her finances.

There are many places where you can get advice on how to set up a budget. It is a good idea for you to do this yourself, as a newly independent household. Go through those steps yourself following a tutorial. Then go back to your mom and work through it with her.

Only after you have a grasp of the situation can you make a reasonable decision about what support you want to give your mother. The one piece of advice I would give would be not to structure anything as a loan; loans between close family members or even friends are a great way to end your relationship.

Other comments and answers go on about "you don't owe her anything"; but that isn't for them to decide, nor is it a good topic for this stack exchange to weigh in on. Legally, you are probably not obligated to give her any money; in some jurisdictions, you may be obligated if she becomes destitute.

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Actually, some information is lacking to give you good advice. Given that everyone has taken for granted that your mother, most likely, spends money on "whims" and that you don't owe her a penny, I'm going to try to see it from the other perspective. Maybe your mother wasn't spending the money your father gave her on things for you, but she was spending it on things for her (this is what most people assumes). But perhaps, she was spending it on basic things to live. Rent, taxes, car, food, and some whim (we all deserve a little whim). For me, the summary would be:

  • If you can give it to her, and she needs it, give it to her.
  • If you can give it to her, but she doesn't need it, give it as long as you feel like it.

Basically, if she needs the money, from my moral point of view I feel like it is almost an obligation, to the point where she doesn't need it anymore. If she does not need it, it would be a decision I would make taking several factors into account, such as the friendship I have with her, etc.

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This is interesting. Your mother feels that she has suffered an injury caused by you in the action of moving out. You have deprived her of income. She may be paying rent on an empty bedroom. Her overheads per remaining child are higher. She may have long term liabilities and have been tightly budgeting.

This was foreseeable and should have been discussed a lot earlier. Perhaps more child support is now required for the remaining children as their share of the rent is now higher etc.

Perhaps if you can sustain the loss without hardship, you could quantify what she is saving by your absence and pay the difference, or half of the difference.

Paying all of it gives her an income boost, and seems to me like unjust enrichment. How often do you go home for meals, or laundry? By all means give her something if she is in difficulty, or costs are disproportionate for one of the remaining children. But this was a long time coming, and she needed to allow for it. How would you treat a similar request from your father for help? You may need to support them both to a degree later in life after all.

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You can give money to your mom for a start-up business so she can earn money and not rely on you giving her money for the rest of her life.

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    Not everyone has the skills for or inclination towards starting and running their own business. From all we know so far this money might very well be wasted. – Ghanima Sep 27 at 13:33

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