“Can Financial Help From My Parents Be Counted As Part Of My Income For Child Support?”

It is not unusual for parties in a separation or divorce to have to get help from family. Sometimes this comes in the form of monthly payments, or free rent, or help with food or car payments. This is often more a matter of necessity, rather than convenience.

A 2009 California case from the Sixth District Court of Appeal, called In re Marriage of Alter discussed this specific issue, and found that recurring payments from family can in fact be income. There are quite a few caveats and limitations, though, to this case, and practical considerations.

First, this case involved a substantial amount of money. The father in this case was receiving $6,000 a month from his mother as a “stipend” to help him with his expenses, on top of his normal salary. The payments were long-term and consistent. The court found that they were income to him and could be included in the calculation. In cases with a lot less income, it is a lot less likely that the court will find it to be income. A father who is staying with his parents in their extra room because he cannot afford rent is unlikely to be in the same position as someone whose parents can afford to give him $6,000.00 a month.

Second, the payments have to be consistent, so that they look like income. Help here and there, paying a bill, etc., will not be counted.

Third, oftentimes the person who is accepting family help is doing so for a very good reason: they are not getting support like they should. It is unfair for a court to count help that a person is forced to accept because the other party is not paying their court ordered support. I recently handled a case where the court rejected a claim for family help for free rent based on the testimony of the parent who stated that the help was only given because the other party was thousands of dollars behind in child support and they did not want to see their grandchild.

This case is likely to be litigated more in the future. Attorneys are always looking for an edge, so requesting that the court find gifts to be income is likely to be a tool used more and more often, until there are more clear guidelines about when it is appropriate or not. This is an area where you can expect some law changes in the future, so stay tuned.

DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.

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