The Legal Intelligencer: Social Security Survivor’s Benefit Included as Income in Child Support Calculation

June 21, 2022

In an article published in The Legal Intelligencer on June 16, 2022, partner and co-chair of the family law group, Michael Bertin, discusses the components that go into the calculation of a child support obligation and more specifically the inclusion of Social Security benefits as income. 

In the article, titled “Social Security Survivor’s Benefit Included as Income in Child Support Calculation,” Michael analyzed the recent case of C.H.Z. v. A.J.Y., 262 A.3d 604 (Pa. Super. 2021). The case addressed the issue of the inclusion of Social Security Survivor’s benefits as income for calculating child support. In this case, the mother and the father are the parents of twin children. The father sued the mother for child support. The mother also has another child, who is disabled, and whose father died. The mother receives two forms of Social Security benefits as a result of that child’s father’s death. In calculating the mother’s child support obligation to the father for the twins, the court included the mother’s survivor’s benefit (not the representative payment) in her income.

Because Pennsylvania support law “specifically recognizes ‘social security benefits’ as ‘income’ for purposes of calculating child support” along with the fact that the support guidelines specify “many types of income including, but not limited to,” the fact that Pennsylvania support law does not specifically reference “survivor’s benefits” is not fatal and the Superior Court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when including the survivor’s benefits in the mother’s income for purposes of calculating child support.

In this C.H.Z. case, it is clear that the mother had full use of the survivor’s benefit without restriction to it being applied to the child of the deceased parent. That appears to be what tipped the scales in it being properly considered income. The representative payment was the child’s payment being received by the mother because the child was a minor and had to be accounted for as being used for the child’s needs. As reflected in the opinion, the representative payment was not included in the mother’s income for the calculation of support.

Read the full article here.