Will Your New Spouse’s Income Cause an Increase in Your Child Support Obligation?
In a case decided by the Pennsylvania Superior Court in May of this year, the answer was yes. While the facts and circumstances in the Allegheny County case of J.P.D.. vs. W.E.D. are unusual, the court’s ruling is noteworthy in its assessment of how those facts were treated and for its approval of the upward deviation in the Father’s child support obligation, approving an increase in that obligation by more than 100% above the guideline-calculated amount.
The Father in that case had divorced the Mother of their two minor children and Father had remarried. The two parties to the case, the parents of the two minor children, were found to have relatively similar incomes/earning capacities, Mother’s income at some $3135/month and Father’s earning capacity at $3694/month, however, Father’s new wife earned in excess of one million dollars ($1,000,000.00) per year. While it is well-established that step parents do not have an obligation to contribute to the financial support of their step children, the court determined that the new Wife’s extremely high income, which paid for all of the Father’s living expenses and provided him with many luxuries as well, justified an upward deviation in the Father’s child support obligation. In fact, finding that he contributed no money at all to support himself and his new household, the court determined that 100% of his earning capacity was available for child support purposes. In coming to this determination, the court noted that Father had testified that he did not pay any expenses, and in fact, he did not even open the mail, leaving all such financial affairs to his Wife.
Father’s contention that an increase of more than 100% above the guidelines amounted to a punitive and confiscatory order was rejected. The court found that, even by raising Father’s support obligation from the guideline-calculated $665/month to $1365/month, Father was left with more than 50% of his net monthly income/earning capacity. While the support guidelines establish a presumptively correct amount of support, the court is authorized to deviate from that guideline calculation based on certain factors, one of which is other income in the home of one or both parties.
If you are involved in a child support case, the statewide support guidelines will establish the presumptively correct amount of support, however, the facts and circumstances of your situation, and those of the other party to the case, may warrant a deviation from those guidelines. As the case of J.P.D.. vs. W.E.D makes clear, the deviation can be substantial, and it is important to review the facts and circumstances carefully.
To schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys or for further information, call us at LaMonaca Law, at (610) 892-3877