It is not uncommon for self-employed parties or parties with ownership interests in a business to have some expenses paid for by the business. Examples may include paying their cell phone bill, car payments or repairs, travel expenses, entertainment costs, membership dues, etc. Many of these expenses can subsequently be deducted as legitimate business expenses in terms of preparing a business tax return however, they are treated differently in the context of family law. The issue of how personal perks are being paid often arises when trying to identify income available for child or spousal support. The value of some of these "business expenses" can be added back to a party's income for purposes of a support calculation.
Stock benefits are often given to employees as part of their compensation or as an incentive to remain with the company. One of the factors to consider when dealing with stock benefits is whether the benefits are vested or not. Vesting is when all restrictions on the exercise of stock benefits are lifted. Each employer may have different rules on how long it takes benefits to vest. It is important to review the grant documents for the benefits to understand how they work and when they will vest.
Once a support order is established each party is under a continuing obligation to notify the court of any changes income, employer or employment status. Changes income may impact the support order under the guidelines as the amount of support varies based on the income bracket the parties fall into. A reduction income does not necessarily mean the support order will change. The court can consider the reason behind the reduction income. A voluntary reduction income should have no effect on the support order. Voluntary reductions income are defined as a party taking a lower paying job, quitting or leaving a job, changing occupations or returning to school or being fired for cause. The purpose behind this provision is to make sure parties cannot benefit from attempts to escape or lower their support obligation.
Each party's monthly income is evaluated for the purposes of determining an appropriate support order. Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure dictate that each party's monthly gross income based on at least a six-month window should be ascertained first. For purposes of support gross income includes all wages or salary, bonuses, commissions, business income, rental property income, pension or retirement payments, royalties and dividends, and income from an estate or trust, social security disability and retirement benefits, disability benefits, workers' compensation, unemployment compensation and alimony. It also includes any other entitlement to money or lump sum awards such as lottery winnings, tax refunds, insurance compensation, settlements, awards or verdicts.
The issue of how personal perks are being paid often arises when dealing with a self-employed party. Examples of personal perks provided at the expense of the company may include cell phone payments, car payments or repairs, entertainment, meal expenses, travel expenses, country club dues, and other comparable expenses that primarily benefit the individual. These expenses may be still be permissible deductions for tax purposes but the court should consider the amount and nature of these expenses in a support case.