How Are Child Support Payment Amounts Determined in PA?

Pennsylvania child support guidelines are complex and, while the state has a formula for calculating child support payments, there are various factors, including expenses, custodial arrangements, and other nuances that can impact how child support payment amounts are determined in the Commonwealth.

The guidelines on child support payments are based on an income shares model, with the idea that a child will get the same financial support or portion of his parents’ income as he or she would if the parents remained together. The Pennsylvania child support guidelines strive to be as fair to the child as possible, although this model can be complicated.

(Child support guidelines can be found in Pa. R.C.P. 1910-16-4: Support Guidelines. Calculation of Support Obligations, Formula)

Pennsylvania’s Income Shares Model of Child Support

a silhouette of a parent with two small children

This income shares model considers each parent’s monthly net income along with the parties’ combined monthly net income.  Additional expenses, such as medical, insurance, educational, etc., are also factors in the calculation of child support payments in Pennsylvania.

First, the Court determines the combined gross income of the parents. This can include more than just employment earnings—income generated from real estate, a trust fund, unemployment compensation, even lottery winnings, may factor into the final “gross income.”  Deductions will be made for taxes, union dues, mandatory retirement contributions, and alimony paid to the other parent to determine net income.

Determining Who Pays Child Support

The person who will have custody most of the time (i.e., the primary custodial parent) will be named the “obligee,” and is the person who will receive child support.  The person who pays child support is called the “obligor.” When parents share physical custody equally, the parent earning a higher income may be ordered to pay child support.

If a child spends a significant number of overnights with the obligor, but still less than 50% of the overnights, there may be a rebuttal presumption that the obligor is entitled to a reduction in the child support payment.  

Enforcement of PA Child Support

In the event of non-payment, the obligor may face serious consequences, such as:

  • driver’s license revocation;
  • negative credit reporting;
  • tax refund seizure;
  • participation in contempt proceedings. 

In Pennsylvania, it’s possible to modify a child support order. A family law attorney can provide details on when that may apply and can further discuss the legal consequences for not paying child support in Pennsylvania.

How Long Will I Have to Pay Child Support?

In Pennsylvania, both parents must support their children until the age of 18 (unless that child is emancipated) or when the son or daughter graduates from high school, whichever occurs later.  A parent can petition the Court for a modification to their child support order, but he or she will have to prove a substantial change in circumstances and/or income.

Pennsylvania courts may automatically modify the child support order when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, but the parent paying child support should file a Petition to Modify the child support order near the date of the 18th birthday or graduation.

An experienced Pennsylvania family law attorney like Christopher C. Straub, Sandra Edwards Gray, Jeffrey C. Murse, or Gerryanne P. Cauler can answer questions regarding child support in Pennsylvania.  If you have additional questions regarding child support payments and child support enforcement in Pennsylvania, call our office at 717-299-7342.

Posted in News on by Pyfer Reese.