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Recently, the Court of Appeals of Virginia, in Oley v. Branch, a case of first impression, found that income from a Federal Pell Grant counted as income to a party for the purposes of determining child support.  Despite argument that this money was to be used for the party’s education where Federal Pell Grants are issued “to help financially needy students meet the cost of their postsecondary education,” the Court considered that Federal Pell Grants are not limited to the payment of tuition, and may also be used to pay the costs of room and board, books, and services. The Court also looked to Virginia Code section 20-108.2,  which defines gross income for the purposes of calculating child support, and to the case law.  In Frazer v. Frazer, the Court previously held that “Under Code § 20-108.2(C), gross income includes ‘all income from all sources,’ and unless specifically excluded, any income from any source is subject to inclusion.”  23 Va. App. 358, 378, 477 S.E.2d 290, 299-300 (1996).  Other governmental assistance programs are specifically excluded under Code 20-108.2(C), such as supplemental security income benefits.  However, the Court concluded that the Federal Pell Grant does not fall into any of the exceptions, and is not specifically named as an exception. Therefore because the Code does not specifically exclude federal education grants, like the Pell Grant in this case, the Court found that they are to be considered income for purposes of support.

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