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Updates in the Law: Income for Child Support Determinations

On September 9, 2014, the Court of Appeals of Virginia, in a case of first impression, held that a Mother’s income from a Federal Pell Grant counted as income to her for the purposes of determining child support.

Federal Pell Grants are issued “to help financially needy students meet the cost of their postsecondary education.”  In this case, the Mother was in the process of completing coursework to become a dental assistant.  Federal Pell Grants are not limited to the payment of tuition, and may also be used to pay the costs of room and board, books, and services.

The Court looked to Virginia Code section 20-108.2, the Virginia statute which defines gross income for the purposes of calculating child support, and to the case law which further defines it. 

“Under Code § 20-108.2(C), gross income includes ‘all income from all sources,’ and unless specifically excluded, any income from any source is subject to inclusion.” Frazer v. Frazer, 23 Va. App. 358, 378, 477 S.E.2d 290, 299-300 (1996).

The Court noted that other governmental assistance programs are specifically excluded under Code 20-108.2(C), such as supplemental security income benefits.  However, the Federal Pell Grant does not fall into any of the exceptions, and is not specifically named as an exception.

The Court held: “Therefore because [the statue] does not specifically exclude federal education grants, like the Pell Grant in this case, they are subject to inclusion.”

Oley v. Branch, 9/9/2014 Record No. 1857-13-2

Read the full case here.

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