Pursuant to Pennsylvania family law, parents have an absolute legal obligation to support their children financially until emancipation, which occurs when a child turns 18 years of age or graduates high school, whichever occurs last. Typically, one of the more straightforward aspects of a Bucks County divorce is the determination of child support, because Pennsylvania has established support guidelines, in which the parents’ combined net monthly income is cross-indexed against the number of children, in order to determine a monthly support amount. The legislature determined that this monthly support amount is what it takes to provide for the number of children in question.
Calculating Monthly Child Support in a Bucks County Support Case
With regard to the resulting monthly support amount, each parent is assigned a portion based on the percentage of the combined net monthly income that he or she earns. For example, Father earns $2,000.00 net a month, and Mother earns $1,000.00 net a month. They have a combined net monthly income of $3,000.00, and they have one child. Pursuant to the support guidelines, they have a monthly support obligation of $704.00. Father contributes 66.67% of the combined monthly income, so he would have a support obligation of approximately $469.00 a month.
Both Parents are Employed
When both parents are employees who are issued W-2s by their employers, the above calculations are rather simple. You take each party’s annual income, divide it by twelve to come up with the monthly gross income, take into account mandatory deductions, and plug the monthly net income into the guidelines to calculate the amount of support. However, matters become more complicated when one of the parties is self-employed or receives a commission-based salary.
A Parent is Self-Employed
If a party is self-employed, how he or she is paid becomes important. For instance, does he or she draw a W-2 salary, or does he or she make periodic withdrawals from the company? Have there been any recent changes in the amount or manner of compensation? If a party’s salary is commission-based, has there been a significant decrease in his or her earnings? If so, is it because of decreased sales, or are commissions being deferred for some reason? These are some examples only.
Typically, discovery (the request for documentation and information) is not available in simple support cases. However, each party is required to bring tax documents and recent pay stubs to a support conference. If your opposing party is self-employed or a commission-based employee, you should review the documents provided at the conference to see if there are any major changes in income since filing for support.
If there are significant changes, or the opposing party fails to bring all of the required documents to the conference, you can request a hearing before a Judge. Prior to that hearing, you could request the case be deemed a complex support case. Once a Judge deems it a complex support case, you can proceed with discovery. You then can request detailed banking, tax, salary, and other income documentation and information. Once you receive all of this documentation and information, review it closely to make sure no income is being hidden in attempt to avoid support.