Child support is one of the defining and under-studied elements of single mothering in contemporary Australia. However, the Australian Child Support Scheme is marked by high levels of debt and unreliable, partial and non-payment, which exacerbate mothers' financial insecurity. Most Australian child support research has focused on the amounts and outcomes of payments. Little is known about how and why mothers and fathers make the child support decisions they do. In this paper, we synthesise data from three interview studies with mothers who were due to receive child support to assess whether they experienced the system as intended. We compare the experience of child support policy 'on the books' with its experience by mothers 'on the ground'. A qualitative approach to mothers' experiences of child support highlights the social meaning of that money and the importance of understanding its transfer and use as embedded in social relations.