Child support increased by inheritance, wealthy stepparent

The amount of child support a parent has to pay is usually determined by his or her income, but two new cases from Pennsylvania show that other sources of wealth – such as receiving an inheritance or marrying someone rich – can have an effect.

In one case, a police officer who was originally ordered to pay $1,458 a month to support his three small children was later ordered to pay $2,267 a month, after a judge took into account the fact that he had received a $600,000 inheritance.

The man argued that the inheritance wasn’t “income.” The court said this was true, but the money could be invested so as to produce income, and this could be counted in determining how much child support he had to pay.

The man also argued that he had a right to preserve the inheritance intact to allow him to work less. But the court said his legal obligation to support his children trumped his desire to have a “work-free lifestyle.”

In the second case, a father’s child support payments were more than doubled, from $665 a month to $1,365 a month, after a court considered the fact that the father had remarried and his new wife earned more than a million dollars a year.

In general, a stepparent has no legal obligation to support a stepchild, and so a stepparent’s income can’t be considered in determining child support. But the court said this case was different because the new wife essentially paid for all of the husband’s personal and household expenses, allowing more of his own income to be freed up to take care of his children.