All financial resources can be considered for support, but parent must have some level of control over gifts and inheritances to count as income

Courts Bulletin: No financial resource is exempt from the court’s consideration for child support and maintenance calculation purposes. However, financial gifts from a parent or third party and lump-sum inheritances/financial gifts are considered as to the level of control a parent has over said gifts and how they are used.

Recent Case No. 102017 (Mo. App. E.D., October 27, 2015), Clayton, J.

The parties were married in May 1998 and had four children. The trial court entered a consent judgment in March 2011 granting the parties joint legal and joint physical custody. Father, who was the sole owner of a catering family business at the time of the dissolution, was to pay Mother $2,500 per month in child support (an agreement above the Form 14) and $7,500 in maintenance.

Mother then filed a modification to increase Father’s child support obligation and reduce Father’s maintenance obligation. The parties agreed that Mother should have sole legal sole physical custody, and Father be awarded supervised visitation.

Father suffered from a very serious drinking problem, and squandered away a great deal of money from the family business on alcohol and lavish trips. At the time of the modification, Father’s Father (Sch. Sr.) had executed a warrant and purchased back 85% of stock in the family business because his son failed to make payments on a $1.35 million promissory note. Father’s parents paid for several stints in rehab, five months of his child support obligation, improvements to Father’s house, and Father’s attorney’s fees. Father no longer had anything to do with running the family business.

The trial court rejected a Form 14 that set Father’s child support obligation at $1,514 and ordered $5,000 per month in child support and $1,500 per month in maintenance.

Father appealed.

Held: Reversed and remanded. Among other points, Father argued that the support he received from his parents should not be taken into consideration by the court when determining a child support amount. The controlling cases on whether funds from parents or other third parties should be considered for support purposes are Thurman v. Thurman, 95 S.W.3d 172 (Mo. App. 2003) and In re Marriage of Petersen, 22 S.W.3d 760 (Mo. App. 2000).

For lump sum gifts and financial assistance from third parties to be considered, the court must examine whether said funds are given directly to the parent or if he/she had any control over how the funds were used.

In the case at bar, the trial court erred in calculating funds from the family business (from which Father once routinely had access) as well as the assistance from Father’s parents in its support calculation purposes. Sch Sr. testified that Father was to have nothing to do with the family business and both parents testified that they paid specific expenses for Father rather than turned the money over to his control.

Because the trial court erred in determining Father’s financial resources, both orders of child support and maintenance were remanded for further proceedings

Source for Post: Missouri Bar Courts Bulletin