Is your inheritance considered as income for the purposes on computing child support in Virginia?

In the case of Da’mes v. Da’mes, the Father moved to modify his child support obligation because his income had decreased, Mother’s employment had changed, and one out of three children reached the age of majority.

At trial, the parties contested their incomes. Mother earned $18.20 per hour working at a craft store, and Father owned and managed rental properties. The Father had sold one of his rental properties, and after using some of the proceeds towards paying off marital debts, he was left with a balance of $112,785 from the sale. The parties disputed whether Father’s income should include the proceeds from the sale of the rental property and an inheritance of approximately $600,000, which he received since the prior support order was entered.

The court determined that Father’s income included both the $600,000 inheritance and the $112,785 balance from the sale of the rental property. The court divided the inheritance by the number of years left until the last child reaches the age of majority, which was five years, and calculated the proceeds from the property sale as additional monthly income over a twelve-month period.

On appeal, Father argued that the court erred in finding that his $600,000 inheritance “created a large one-time income event.” The Court of Appeals (“COA”) rejected this argument because the amount of child support must be based on the parent’s actual gross income, which includes gifts as defined by code § 20-108.2(C). The COA noted that “gifts” include inheritances and constitute income even unjust, the court may make written findings and deviate from the guidelines based on the statutory factors in Code § 20-108.1(B). Because the trial court made such findings and considered the appropriate factors, the COA held that the court did not abuse its discretion in including the inheritance as income and distributing it over five years.