Father's IRA Withdrawals Added to His Income to Increase his Child Support Payment
The definition of “income” for child and spousal support includes income “from any source” including “all forms of retirement.” 1910.16-2 (a)(4)).
Father (the payor of child support) was a former attorney now on disability. He had about $300,000.00 in an IRA. In the year before the child support hearing, he made an early withdrawal of about $90,000.00 from his IRA, and in the year of the support hearing he had already made another early withdrawal of $43,000.00 from his IRA. He had to pay taxes on these early withdrawals. Father testified that he needed to make those withdrawals to pay for his living expenses. He testified that his disability payments did not cover his living expenses. The Judge noted the expensive sports car that Father leased compared to his ex-wife’s cheap car that she leased, and that Father had purchased a home in an expensive neighborhood that was nicer than the home that he and the former wife had when they were married and compared that to the ex-wife’s cheaper, rented apartment. The Judge then added $20,000.00 per year to Father’s income to determine his child support obligation. This of course increased the amount he had to pay in child support. Father appealed. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed – meaning the Father lost on appeal.
The Superior Court stated, “the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines are very clear in their pronouncement that ‘the support of a spouse or child is a priority obligation so that a party is expected to meet this obligation by adjusting his or her other expenditures.’ Pa.R.C.P, 1910.16-1(a) (emphasis added).” Holt v. Kline, 2023 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 278, *10 and 11 (2023). In short, the Trial Court took the position that the Father should not have leased an $80,000.00 sports car or purchased a $370,000.00 home in a posh neighborhood of Pittsburgh, as these expenses carry high lease and mortgage payments respectively. The Trial Court was saying that because Father increased his living expenses above what he could afford using only his disability payments, thus necessitating him to cash in his retirement early, the Judge would include the early withdrawals from his retirement in Father’s income for support purposes. But the Cout was not done with Father yet.
In this case, it was Father who petitioned the court to modify (i.e., reduce) his child support. He argued – correctly – that the Child’s Social Security Derivative Benefit received by Mother, exceeded Father’s child support obligation amount, thus bringing Father’s child support obligation to zero according to the Pennsylvania support guidelines. Father applied the guidelines correctly. But that is not the end of the analysis. The Court may deviate from the Pennsylvania support guidelines. The support law states, “the trier-of-fact shall consider the child's and parties' special needs and obligations, and apply the Pa.R.C.P. No. 1910.16-5 deviation factors, as appropriate.” Id. *5. So, in this case, the Court deviated upward by 50% from the guideline range amount (i.e., the guideline range amount before zeroing it out due to the Child’s Social Security Derivative Benefit). So, Father went to Court with a correct legal claim that his guideline support amount should be zeroed out because the Mother was receiving the Child’s Social Security Derivative Benefit, the amount of which exceeded the child support amount. So, the Court zeroed it out, but then used its power to “deviate” upward by 50% of the amount the child support should have been before zeroing it out! Father was not prepared for the Court to do that! But it did. Reminder, you never know what the Court will do until it does it!
If you have any questions about child support, spousal support, alimony pendente lite, or alimony, do not hesitate to contact Scaringi Law at 717-657-7770.