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To understand child support, know the definition of 'income'

There is probably no more delicate issue to address in a divorce than how to support children if there any in the picture. Every state has its own laws covering this matter. They tend to be based on one of three different models. All strive to achieve the same goal of setting the base child support that is required for fulfilling the best interests of the child.

In Minnesota, the model used is called Income Shares. Its premise is that the child should not suffer as a result of the divorce of the parents, at least not financially. In other words, it's expected that whatever proportion of parental income a child was enjoying before the divorce will continue after the split. However, regardless of what model might be used, all tend to have one thing in common. All are income driven.

This being tax time, the question of what defines income is probably one that is on the minds of a lot of people. Anyone who has filed their federal and state returns knows that identifying what is taxable income can sometimes be difficult to pin down. In the context of determining child support, income typically counts any money from any source, including:

  • Any and all work compensation received, including pensions
  • Gains from investments, business partnerships, interest or annuities
  • Money from trusts, inheritances
  • Social Security, veterans' or other military benefits
  • Workers' compensation, unemployment, disability benefits or strike pay
  • Monetary gifts or prizes
  • Educational subsidies or grants for personal living expenses

You can see from this short list that income to set child support is defined as broadly as possible. It could include the savings a parent realizes from having a company car or supplied housing. Even the income of a new spouse, if it is used to offset a non-custodial parent's personal expenses, can be added to the equation.

If you're confused at this point, take heart. Answers are available to your questions by contacting an experienced family law attorney. Many offer free first consultations.

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