When contemplating a separation from a spouse or loved-one, there is often a concern about the ongoing ability to meet financial obligations—in other words, will you be able to meet your living expenses and your children’s expenses after separation? The good news is that the Pennsylvania support statute (23 Pa.C.S.A., Chapter 43) establishes that “[m]arried persons are liable for the support of each other according to their respective abilities to provide support,” and parents are liable for support of unemancipated children who are 18 years old or younger. The Court will calculate those support obligations by applying the parties’ incomes and relevant expenses to the Pennsylvania support guidelines.
But what happens if your ex-spouse or partner is unemployed or under-employed? Will the Court accept your ex-spouse’s lower wages, resulting in a lower support payment for you?
If the Court determines that your ex-spouse has willfully failed to obtain or maintain appropriate employment, the Court may impute an income equal to your ex-spouse’s earning capacity. Factors such as age, education, training, health, work experience, earnings history, and child care responsibilities will be considered by the Court when determining an earning capacity and the amount of imputed income. For an unemployed ex-spouse or partner, the Court will also consider whether that person has exerted substantial good faith efforts to find employment. An imputed income for an unemployed or under-employed party is applied to the Pennsylvania support guidelines in place of actual earnings, which (in most cases) will result in a higher support obligation and, therefore, greater financial support to help meet your living expenses.
It is important to remember that child and spousal support determinations can be nuanced, and many other variables (e.g., custody arrangements, health insurance premiums, child care costs) may impact the determination by the Court. If you have questions regarding child or spousal support matters, please contact us at 717.299.7342 to speak with one of our Family Law attorneys.
~Jeffrey C. Murse, Esquire