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C.H.Z. v. A.J.Y.

Pennsylvania Superior Court

September 16, 2021

Mother and Father are the parents of twin children (“the Children”). Mother has another child, A.Y., whose father died. Following A.Y.’s father’s death, the United States Social Security Administration awarded separate payments: (1) a Survivor’s Benefit to Mother, as a widow caring for a deceased person’s child; and (2) a survivor’s benefit payment to A.Y. (the “Representative Payment”), as the child of a deceased parent. Because A.Y. is a minor, the Representative Payment is sent to Mother, who manages the Representative Payment on A.Y.’s behalf. Father filed a Complaint for child support regarding the Children. The trial court entered an order of support for the Children, which included Mother’s Survivor’s Benefit as income attributable to Mother. Mother appealed and argued that the trial court erred in including her Survivor’s Benefit, which she receives because of her status as A.Y.’s mother, in the income calculation for the Children. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed. The Court noted that the Support Law specifically recognizes “social security benefits” as “income” to calculate child support. While the child support guidelines do not specifically reference survivor’s benefits, Rule 1910.16-2 of the Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure refers to the Support Law’s definition of “income,” and states that the Support Law specifies “many types of income including, but not limited to,” a list of different types of income such as wages and salaries, rents and royalties, pensions, interest income, alimony, workers and unemployment compensation, and various cash or lump sum awards. Therefore, the trial court correctly considered the Survivor’s Benefit to be included as Mother’s income.

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