Parents who are going through separation or divorce often want to know about paying or receiving child support. In the article below, our Bucks County, Pennsylvania divorce and family law attorneys discuss:
- Pennsylvania Child Support Law (i.e., the statutory child support guidelines).
- How child support is determined under the guidelines.
- How net income is calculated.
- How a parent’s share of child support is calculated.
- When courts may deviate from the guidelines.
How Do Pennsylvania Family Law Courts Determine Child Support?
When deciding child support matters, Pennsylvania family law courts use the child support guidelines which can be found in the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules 1910.16-1 to 1910.16-7. The amounts listed in the child support guidelines take into account the reasonable needs of the child and the parents’ income.
The guidelines are calculations based on the parents’ combined monthly net income and the number of children. Click here for the child support guideline calculations.
Example: Mother and father are divorced with 2 children and have a combined monthly net income of $7,500. Under the child support guidelines, the monthly support obligation for their 2 children is $1,729.
It’s important to note that Pennsylvania’s child support guidelines do not apply to certain situations:
- The parents’ combined monthly net income exceeds $30,000. (See Rule 1910.16-3.1 which applies in high income cases)
- The non-custodial parent’s monthly net income is less than $867 per month.
- Multi-family situations. (See Rule 1910.16-7)
What Counts as Net Income?
Net income is gross income minus federal, state and local taxes, Social Security/Medicare taxes, mandatory union dues and alimony paid to the other party.
Gross income includes income from all sources including wages, salaries, rental income, dividends, etc. Contributions to retirement accounts such as an IRA are considered income for purposes of determining a parent’s income and their child support obligation.
How Much Child Support Does a Parent Have to Pay?
After the monthly net income is calculated, the next step is to calculate each parent’s share of the monthly child support amount, otherwise known as their basic support obligation.
Using the same example above, mother has primary custody and father has partial custody. Mother’s monthly net income is $3,000 and father’s is $4,500. Since father’s portion of the monthly net income is 60%, father pays 60% of the monthly child support amount. The monthly child support amount is $1,729, per the child support guidelines, therefore, father’s obligation is approximately $1,037.
Under Pennsylvania Child Support Law, the amount of child support a parent is responsible for depends on the custody arrangement and a variety of other factors, such as:
- whether the child attends private school or summer camp,
- which parent pays health insurance for the child, and
- whether there are unreimbursed medical expenses for the child in excess of $250.
The amounts in the child support guidelines are simply guidelines. They are not guaranteed. Child support obligations are not limited to the basic necessities of life. They often include additional costs that reasonably benefit a child’s physical, mental and emotional welfare. Under certain circumstances, the court may deviate from the support guidelines.
The Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines – Rebuttable Presumption
There’s a strong, but rebuttable, presumption that the amounts listed in the child support guidelines are appropriate. In a Bucks County child support matter, the family law judge will assume that the amount under the guidelines is the correct amount of support to be awarded.
However, a party contesting a child support obligation can present evidence to rebut the presumed amount of child support. A family law court can deviate from the child support guidelines when the specific circumstances of the matter show that the amount per the Guidelines is unjust or inappropriate.
Deviating from the Support Guidelines – Lower or Higher Amounts of Child Support
Under Pennsylvania Child Support Law, a court may deviate from the guidelines after considering the following factors:
- unusual needs and unusual fixed obligations,
- other support obligations of the parties,
- other income in the household,
- ages of the children,
- the relative assets and liabilities of the parties,
- medical expenses not covered by insurance,
- standard of living of the parties and their children,
- in a spousal support or alimony pendente lite case, the duration of the marriage from the date of marriage to the date of final separation, and
- other relevant and appropriate factors, including the best interests of the child or children.