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How Child Support Is Calculated in Pennsylvania


Child support is generally calculated by using a set of guidelines established by the state, which consider the income of both parents, the number of children and the custody arrangement. In Pennsylvania, these guidelines use an income shares model, which estimates the amount of money that would have been available for the child’s care if the parents were still together. Additional factors such as health insurance costs, childcare expenses and any special needs of the child are also considered to ensure the support amount is fair and adequate for the child’s wellbeing. If you need help planning your finances to support your children, consider talking to a financial advisor.

How Child Support Works in Pennsylvania

Child support cases in Pennsylvania are handled by the Court of Common Pleas in each county, with the assistance of the Department of Human Services’ Bureau of Child Support Enforcement. The courts determine the amount of child support based on state guidelines, which take into account various factors such as the parents’ incomes, the number of children, and the custody arrangement. The Bureau of Child Support Enforcement helps locate non-custodial parents, establishes paternity and enforces support orders through various means, such as wage garnishment and tax refund interception.

Here’s an overview of how child support typically works in Pennsylvania:

1. Determination of child support amount: The basic child support obligation is calculated using the parents’ combined income and the number of children. Each parent’s share of this obligation is then determined based on their individual income.

2. Income calculation: Income for child support purposes includes wages, salary, bonuses, commissions, rental income, self-employment income, unemployment benefits, disability benefits and other sources of income.

3. Shared physical custody determination: If parents share physical custody of the children, the amount of child support may be adjusted based on the percentage of time each parent has physical custody.

4. Health insurance and childcare costs: The cost of health insurance for the children and childcare expenses may be added to the basic child support obligation and divided between the parents based on their incomes.

5. Modification of child support: Child support orders can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in income or a change in the custody arrangement.

6. Enforcement of child support orders: Pennsylvania has various enforcement mechanisms to ensure child support orders are followed. These include wage garnishment, intercepting tax refunds, suspending driver’s licenses and other legal actions.

7. Duration of child support: Generally, child support continues until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. However, support may continue for a longer period in certain circumstances, such as if the child has special needs.

It’s important for parents to comply with child support orders and to seek legal assistance if they have questions or need to modify an existing order. Family courts in Pennsylvania oversee child support matters and can guide specific cases.

Main Factors for Calculating Child Support in Pennsylvania

Grandparents reviewing how much child support gets paid for their granddaughter.

Pennsylvania’s child support guidelines consider several key factors to determine the appropriate support amount. These factors include the monthly net income of both parents, the number of children requiring support, custody arrangements (percentage of time spent with each parent), childcare expenses, health insurance costs for the children, extraordinary medical expenses, other support obligations of either parent and the age of the children. Here is how each factor works:

  • Monthly net income and earning capacity: The monthly net income of both parents is one of the most significant factors in calculating child support. This includes income from all sources, such as wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions and self-employment income, minus allowable deductions like taxes and mandatory union dues.
  • Custody arrangements: The number of children requiring support and the custody arrangements also play a crucial role in determining child support. The more time a child spends with a parent, the less that parent may be required to pay in child support, as they are already directly contributing to the child’s expenses during their parenting time.
  • Other support obligations: If either parent has other support obligations, such as child support for children from a previous relationship or spousal support, these will be taken into account when calculating the child support amount for the current case.
  • Childcare expenses: Childcare expenses typically include costs such as daycare, babysitting or after-school care. These expenses are often a necessary cost for parents who work outside the home.

How to Calculate Child Support

The courts are responsible for determining the appropriate amount of child support based on state guidelines and the specific circumstances of each case. The child support calculation process typically involves several steps:

  1. Gathering financial information from both parents, including income, expenses and assets.
  2. Determining the physical custody schedule and the amount of time each parent spends with the children.
  3. Applying the state’s child support guidelines to the gathered information to calculate a preliminary support amount.
  4. Considering any adjustments or deviations based on specific circumstances.
  5. Finalizing the child support order through a court hearing or agreement.

How Child Support Is Calculated With 50/50 Custody

When parents share 50/50 custody, also known as joint physical custody, the child spends an equal amount of time living with each parent. This arrangement impacts how child support is calculated, as both parents are responsible for providing for the child’s daily needs. Courts consider various factors when determining child support in 50/50 custody situations to ensure that the child’s needs are met equitably in both households.

The main factors that courts consider when calculating child support in 50/50 custody arrangements include each parent’s income, childcare expenses and healthcare costs. The child’s age, educational needs and extracurricular activities may also be taken into account when determining support obligations.

Bottom Line

A couple calculating how much they will split in child support costs.

Pennsylvania’s child support system plays a vital role in ensuring that children receive the necessary financial support from both parents, even when they are not living together. By carefully considering factors such as parents’ incomes, custody arrangements, childcare costs, health insurance expenses and extraordinary medical needs, the state’s guidelines provide a consistent and equitable approach to determining child support.

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