Divorced and remarried parents sometimes have more difficulty establishing a clear system for allowance, says Kim Long, director of the Center for Children of Divorce in the District. "One of the biggest issues in divorced, separated and remarried families is the parents fighting out their own financial battles through the kids. When parents are still playing out their own anger at each other for financial issues, the kids often get stuck in the middle."

Typical situations, says Long, include: the custodial mother who won't give her child an allowance because she feels her ex-husband doesn't give her enough money and the noncustodial father who bedazzles his child with large sums of money.

"A father shouldn't just lay money into the kid as a way of paying for his absence," says Charles Simpkinson, a psychologist and family therapist in Montgomery County.

A father whose children from a first marriage live with their mother, says Long, should be sure to give these children some money if he gives his "new" children an allowance. "You need to indicate to your first child that he is a priority."

And, advises Long, a remarried mother whose husband rails against giving her children an allowance needs to take charge. "If the mother feels her kids should have an allowance, it's not his place to decide. She needs to be strong enough to do what she has to do."

Take the kids out of the middle. "The issue at hand is that the kids need money," says Long, who advises that parents agree on a system, cooperate and "deal with each other directly and not the kid."