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Special Needs Trust Income Available for Child Support

A Pennsylvania appeals court rules that income from a father’s special needs trust is available to pay child support.  Mencer v. Ruch.  (PA.Super 182, 2007) No. 1902 WDA 2006.

Mencer instituted a support action against Gary Ruch, the father of her
daughter. Due to a brain injury that occurred prior to the daughter’s
birth, Mr. Ruch was on public assistance. Ms. Mencer entered into an
agreement that Mr. Ruch’s support obligation would remain at zero
unless he became eligible for Social Security disability benefits. She
later became aware that Mr. Ruch was the beneficiary of a supplemental
needs trust created under New York law from proceeds of a personal
injury action.

the trust had distributed child support payments to a child from a
previous relationship, the trial court adopted the order of a hearing
officer that income from the trust should not be considered for
purposes of child support. Ms. Mencer appealed, arguing that the trial
court’s failure to include Mr. Ruch’s trust funds as income would have
material impact on her daughter.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania reverses, finding that the trial court
misapplied the law by failing to consider as income the distributions
made by the trust in calculating Mr. Ruch’s child support obligations.
The court rejects Mr. Ruch’s argument that the trustee is not permitted
to pay child support from the trust under applicable New York law,
ruling that the father, rather than the trustee, is obligated to pay
the child support.

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