Can an inheritance affect child support obligation?

Here in Massachusetts, the courts take a lot of different things into consideration when it comes to determining a child support obligation and how much one parent will be required to pay the other. Everything from the child’s needs to the non-custodial parent’s income are taken into consideration before a decision is made.

As our Worchester County readers know though, the amount set forth in an obligation can be changed if a non-custodial parent’s financial situation changes. Some changes might be obvious such as a raise or a new job, but other changes may leave our readers with some questions. Take for example a large inheritance from a recently deceased relative. Would the courts consider this a considerable enough change in circumstances to warrant a modification to a child support order?

Let’s take a look.

Under our state’s child support guidelines, income is loosely defined as “gross income from whatever source regardless of whether that income is recognized by the Internal Revenue Code or reported to the Internal Revenue Service or state Department of Revenue or other taxing authority.” And as these guidelines point out, sources of income are not limited to what is listed in the most up-to-date guidelines.

Because an inheritance could affect a person’s available finances, it’s not farfetched to believe that a judge in our state might consider an inheritance a reason to grant a modification to a support order.

It’s important to point out though that our laws do allow deviations from a typical modification, especially in situations where a modification would be “inappropriate under the circumstances.” A noncustodial parent may need the funds received from an inheritance to stabilize their finances. In this case a modification may not be a good idea, which is a conversation a beneficiary may want to have with their lawyer to help make the courts see this as well.

Source: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “Child Support Guidelines,” Accessed Nov. 5, 2014