Financial Assistance Received on Behalf of a Child: Income for Child Support Purposes?

A parent may be receiving government benefits not only for him or herself, but also independent benefits designated for his or her child.  Are the benefits received on behalf of the child considered income for purposes of calculating child support?

The Second District Court of Appeals answers affirmatively in Wallace v. Dept. of Revenue ex rel Cutter, 774 So. 2d 804, 808 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000):

[W]hen a parent is receiving social security disability due to the disability and, as a result, his or her children receive independent benefits, the total  benefits received by or on behalf of that parent are attributed to the disabled parent as income in the child support  guideline calculation.  The dependent benefits are then credited toward the disabled parent’s obligation, that is,  they are a payment of the obligation on behalf of the disabled parent.  If the benefits are less than the support obligation, the disabled parent must pay the difference.  If  they are more, the benefits pay the obligation in full, but any excess inures to the benefit of the children.

In  Maslow v. Edwards, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D266a (Fla. 5th DCA 2011), the Fifth District Court of Appeals clarifies that the analysis remains the same whether the independent benefits originate from the Social Security Administration or another government entity:

At trial, Maslow introduced into evidence documentation showing that he was receiving veteran’s disability benefits of  $440 per month for himself and an additional monthly benefit of $159 for the minor child who is the subject of the child support proceeding.  According to the  Florida Department  of Revenue, veteran’s benefits for minor children are paid to the veteran directly.

***

Although this case involves disability benefits paid by the Veteran’s Administration, rather than benefits paid by Social Security, there does not appear to be any reason to treat the two situations differently.

If you have questions regarding your specific circumstances, you should contact a family law attorney.

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About Adam B. Cordover, Attorney-at-Law

Family Diplomacy is dedicated to helping clients restructure their families privately and respectfully. We practice exclusively in out-of-court dispute resolution, with a focus on collaborative divorce and family law, mediation, direct negotiations, and unbundled legal services. We maintain this out-of-court practice because we strongly believe that family disputes should be resolved in a private conference room, not in a hostile and public courtroom environment. This unique perspective on family law stems back to Adam B. Cordover’s experience studying International Affairs in Washington, D.C., and abroad. Adam had the rare opportunity to work closely with ambassadors and diplomats from war-torn regions around the world. He traveled around the globe, learning from diplomatic leaders as they applied dispute resolution techniques to tackle seemingly impossible conflicts. It dawned on him: If these techniques can work in the complex world of International Relations, why not Domestic Relations and Family Law? This realization lead Adam to create an exclusively out-of-court practice and to bring a more peacemaking approach to family law. In his previous role as a litigation attorney, Adam witnessed parties experience the negative emotional and financial effects that long, drawn out divorce battles can have on families. As a result, Adam has become a strong proponent of the Collaborative Process, where a structure is put in place so that life’s hardest moments do not have to be any more difficult than necessary. A thought leader in the international collaborative law community, Adam successfully spearheaded an effort of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit to draft an administrative order safeguarding the principles of collaborative family law (just the fourth such administrative order in Florida). Adam has been featured in or interviewed about collaborative practice by the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Florida Bar News, NBC, Fox 13, Bay News 9, ABC Action News, The World of Collaborative Practice Magazine, and Spirit FM 90.5. Adam regularly speaks at professional and civic organizations locally and internationally regarding the collaborative process. Adam B. Cordover is president of Next Generation Divorce, a 501(c)(3) and Florida’s largest interdisciplinary collaborative practice group with member attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties. Adam is also on the Executive Board and co-chair of the Research Committee of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida. Further, Adam is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Leadership Academy of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. You can learn more about us and our services at www.FamilyDiplomacy.com. Attorney Adam B. Cordover is admitted to the Florida Bar and the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida. His office is located at 412 East Madison Street, Suite 824, Tampa, Florida 33602.
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