Simms v. Bolger (North Carolina 2019)

No. COA18-551 (N.C. Ct. App. 2019)
March 2019

A lump sum payment is properly considered non-recurring income for child support, doesn’t necessarily require a deviation from the guidelines, and evidence is needed to show that making such a payment will impact future income. The father filed to modify his child support obligation. When support was established, the father’s income was a weekly workers’ compensation benefit. His weekly benefit stopped upon settlement of his claims. He received a substantial amount of money and deposited it into an investment account.  His monthly income was the interest and dividends from this account. The mother also filed a motion to modify. The trial court’s final order increased monthly support, awarded the mother a lump sum payment from the investment account and set an arrearage amount. The father appealed on several grounds relating to the lump sum and the method of arrears calculation. The appellate court found that the lump sum payment met the definition of a non-recurring payment. The father failed to present evidence that the lump sum payment, which was to be taken out of an investment account, would impact his future income. The appellate court did reverse and remand the trial court’s calculation of the father’s arrears. The trial court calculated the father’s income for each individual year from the date of filing to the date of the decision, rather than using his income at the time of the decision. The appellate court found that without additional findings to support use of this method, this was an abuse of discretion.