This factor usually comes into play where one of the parties has significant assets that are not reflected in that party’s income. In a recent Pennsylvania Superior Court case, E.R.L. v. C.K.L. 2015 Pa. Super. 220, Father had an income of approximately $75,000 as a police officer, but had inherited $600,000 while the support litigation was pending. In recognition of Father’s substantial inheritance, the Court deviated from the guideline amount and ordered a number that would have been appropriate for seven children, even though the parties only had three children. Additionally, the Court ordered Father to pay for the children’s extracurricular activities.
The Father in E.R.L. v. C.K.L. appealed, arguing that the Trial Court should not force him to “invade the corpus of his inheritance.” However, the Pennsylvania Superior Court, after reviewing the Trial Court’s decision, determined that “Father’s inheritance affects his financial obligations by making more income available for support” and “an upward deviation. . . is appropriate for the best interest of the children.” Even though Father characterized the deviation as “support for seven children,” the trial court arrived at the numbers by reviewing the children’s reasonable needs.
Litigants should be aware that significant non-income assets may be considered in child support determinations. While Courts are generally hesitant to apply deviation factors, a significant liquid asset, such as a hefty inheritance, could persuade the Court to increase a child support obligation.
This blog was written by Jill Fitzgerald, third year law student at Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law and edited by Linda A. Kerns, Esquire.