Can a gift be considered Income For Child Support?

Prior to February 26, 2009 the answer would have been no.  California Family Code §4058 defines gross income available for child support.   Although there is “catchall” language in the section(i.e., “including but not limited to”) the section’s definition is pretty broad and comprehensive.  One thing that the definition has never included are gifts(unlike spousal support–see In Re Marriage of Shaugnessy(2006) 139 Cal App.4th 1225)…At least until the decision of In Re Marriage of Alter, issued by the 6th Appellate District on 2/26/09. The case makes for very interesting reading, and the court decided a plethora of issues ; however the ruling on considering gifts as income for child support does stand out. In a nutshell, the court found that when gifts are of a recurring nature(as opposed to one time largess) it is within the sound discretion of the trial court whether to include them in income for purposes of  determining guideline child support . One of the classic arguments against including gifts as income for child support, has been that there is no guarantee  that the gifts will continue.  The appellate court made short shrift of that argument, analogizing the uncertainty of receiving gifts to the underlying uncertainty of having a job–if you loose a job you file a modification of child support; the same would be true if the gifts stopped coming—  file a modification….This case adds a little more discretion to making an order  of child support.  For years it was just what the computer kicked out…now there is more wiggle room to what actually goes into the computer/calculation when dealing with a guideline California child support  order.

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