Pursuant to the 2018 Child Support Guidelines, “[i]f a parent receives social security benefits or SSDI benefits and the children of the parties receive a dependency benefit derived from that parent’s benefit, the amount of the dependency benefit shall be added to the gross income of that parent.” Thus, disability benefits are taken into account when determining a noncustodial parent’s child support obligation. Recently, in Leavitt v. Restuccia, the Appeals Court described how to calculate that benefit as part of a noncustodial parent’s income for child support purposes.
In Leavitt, the Appeals Court determined that the lower court improperly included in the custodial parent’s income those amounts that she received for the child’s derivative benefit based on the noncustodial parent’s disability. While it remains true that a derivative benefit counts as income, when calculating a presumptive child support order the SSDI benefits that a custodial parent receives due to a noncustodial parent’s disability must first be included in the income of the noncustodial disabled parent. However, that amount must then be subtracted from the final child support figure as a credit against the noncustodial parent’s child support obligation, as a court must take the amount of disability benefits into consideration when determining how much child support a noncustodial parent needs to provide. The reasoning behind this rule is that that the corresponding amount was already paid to the custodial parent by the noncustodial parent, as SSDI benefits are based on income already earned through the noncustodial, disabled parent’s past employment.