WHICH EXPENSES GET DEDUCTED FOR CHILD SUPPORT

March 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

In Coggins v. Coggins, handed down from the COA February 14, 2012, the appellate court was faced with the appellant’s claim that the chancellor erred by refusing his request to deduct rental investment expenses from gross income in order to arrive at adjusted gross income for calculation of child support.

The COA stated:

“¶19. The inclusion of income and deductions for calculating adjusted gross income for child support is primarily mandated by statute. According to section 43-19-101, in calculating gross income, the chancellor must consider ‘gross income from all potential sources,’ including wages and salary income, income from self-employment, and income from investments. As the chancellor explained, section 43-19-101(3)(b) lists several deductions that may be subtracted from the gross income figure, such as federal, state, and local taxes, social-security contributions, and mandatory retirement and disability contributions, but it does not list business expenses. Additionally, the Mississippi Supreme Court has allowed the deduction of legitimate business expenses in the case of a selfemployed payor-spouse. See Nix v. Nix, 790 So. 2d 198, 199-200 (¶¶3, 5) (Miss. 2001) (The chancellor considered the payor-parent’s legitimate business expenditures for reasons of equity, in order to determine available income for child support; he was a self-employed plumber.). However, the chancellor found no caselaw, nor do we, that allows for a deduction of expenses related to investments or supplemental business enterprises, which would be taken from the gross income of the payor-spouse. Therefore, in arriving at the adjusted gross income figure, the chancellor must include income from many sources, but not all expenses. The allowable deductions for this figure are statutory, and they differ from the allowable deductions for income tax purposes, upon which Bill appears to base his calculations. “

The court went on to point out that, although the statute allows for deduction of the expenses of self-employment, the appellant in this case was not self employed. The expenses he claimed arose out of investments that were a secondary source of income. His secondary employment resulted in a loss, and the COA said: “If [the appellant] opts to continue this rental venture at a loss, it should not be done to the detriment of his child.” The COA upheld the chancellor’s decision.

This case highlights the need for you to be quite familiar with with the child support guideline statute when you present child support issues to the court, and when you draft child support provisions in property settlement agreements. I urge you to read the guidelines and discover exactly what it is that should and should not be included in the calculation of child support.

While I’m on the subject, let me urge you (once again) NOT to list expenses on your 8.05’s as “mandatory” when they are not. The word “mandatory” so loosely used by so many of you is applied to all manner of deductions that simply do not meet the requirement of the statute. The statute limitss deductions to “legally mandated deductions.” That’s the exact phrase. So if there is a law that requires it to be deducted, it is a “legally mandated deduction.” That would include federal and state income taxes, social security, Medicare, and PERS for state employees. Health insurance (for the time being) is not legally mandated, nor are dental or cancer insurance, United Way, IRA contributions, etc., etc., etc. When you gratuitously label a deduction as “mandatory,” you are making the judge have to explain in the opinion why the deduction is not allowed. More work for the judge, which violates the cardinal rule — if you want to win, make it easier for the judge to find in your favor.

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