Fox Family Lawyers
Cynthia Moseley Fox
Attorney at Law
7751 Carondelet Avenue,
Suite 700
Clayton, Missouri 63105
(St. Louis)

Should a Large Inheritance by Your Ex’s New Spouse Reduce Your Child Support Obligation?

A reader, David, writes as follows:


“My ex’s new husband just inherited some money, apparently, a lot of money. Would this inheritance make child support modification a smart step right now? I currently pay my ex $500 per month. I pay for everything he needs, on top of paying child support, such as clothes, shoes, haircuts, school supplies, etc. I realize one cannot use spousal income as a calculation of child support, however, this is a drastic change in circumstances because my ex doesn’t work and her husband was making next to nothing, and now he is making so much more.


Also, my son is age 14; can he decide who to live with? Can he just go to the judge and tell him how he really feels? He is afraid to testify in court and tell his mother that he doesn’t want to live with her.


David, I love it when readers answer their own questions and you have already answered both of yours. Regarding child support, as you wrote, spousal income plays no role in determining the amount of support your “ex” is entitled to. That applies universally, even if the spouse gets a really, really large inheritance. Sorry.


And, as to your second question, there is no point in going forward if your son isn’t willing to testify in open court about what he wants. Children are very good at sensing what their parents want and don’t want to hear. I suspect that’s what’s going on here. There’s no doubt that he loves you and would enjoy living with you, yet he loves his mother as well and doesn’t want to hurt her. Unless your son is already significantly alienated from his mom, through no fault of yours, and has a strong desire to live with you, there is little to be gained and much to lose by forcing the issue.


Getting back to your first question, you didn’t say if funds are particularly tight in your household and if that is motivating your inquiry. If so, here are a couple ideas to consider:


First, as to the extra purchases that you are making on your son’s behalf (clothes, shoes, haircuts), are these items that the court specifically required you to provide in addition to the child support you pay? Normally, these are the responsibility of the custodial parent.  Are these purchases you want to make for your son, or ones that you have to make because your “ex” isn’t providing these necessities? If you are taking on responsibilities shirked by his mother, this is something you should bring to her attention, first, and then to the court, if necessary.


Second, if the large inheritance in the other home is creating a significant disparity in the lifestyle your son enjoys between the two homes, this is something you may want to bring up to your former spouse. She may be open to reducing or eliminating the child support you pay if you offer to use those funds in other ways that would improve your son’s quality of life, such as acquiring a larger apartment or home with additional room for your son. But, be prepared to offer specific ideas in this realm that will truly benefit your child. She is not likely to agree if she suspects that you will use the $500 monthly windfall to trade up to tenderloin from hamburger in your own personal life.


If you and your “ex” do reach an agreement, it should be presented to and ratified by the court. And be prepared for your quid pro quo promises about improving your son’s quality of life being included in some way in the written modification presented to the court. This is what I would insist upon if I were your ex-wife’s attorney.