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What might count as 'income' for child support purposes?

As previous posts on this blog have discussed, parents in New York who are living in separate homes and subject to a paternity or divorce order will have to address issues related to the financial wellbeing of their children. A parent will likely either receive or pay child support, and the amount of that support will depend heavily on each parent's "income."

While income might seem like a straightforward concept that should be relatively uncontroversial, it can often lead to child support disputes, in part because the definition of income is, generally speaking, quite broad. For instance, income not only includes salaries, it also includes things like tips, commissions and other types of compensation that one might not think of as part of his or her regular paycheck. In some circumstances, even the use of the company car or a temporary housing benefit can be considered income. Additionally, a person's income also includes money earned off of investments or profit form one's own business, including rental properties.

Where it gets really tricky is in the realm of government benefits. Although not all of these benefits are income, those that are designed to replace a person's wages, like many Social Security payments, workers' compensation and unemployment benefits, will count as income. Moreover, income from a pension or trust will count, even if a parent was entitled to that pension or trust before his or her relationship began.

Basically, almost any source of money and many non-monetary benefits can be considered income for child support purposes. It may be hard to place a dollar value on many different types of income, particularly if the money comes in irregularly. This is one reason why calculating child support can be complicated and contentious.

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