Child Support

Brian C. Vertz, ESQ, MBA publishes authoritative commentaries and case notes on child support laws in Pennsylvania. He is the author and broadcast presenter of an annual update on PA child support as part of Family Law Update, one of most popular CLE programs of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. Links to some of his most popular articles and case notes are listed at the bottom of this page.

Who pays child support in Pennsylvania?

Both parents are responsible to contribute to the support of their minor children to the best of their earning capacities and financial resources. Child support is a priority obligation, and a parent is expected to meet this obligation by adjusting his or her other expenses. A parent’s duty to support his or her child continues until the child reaches eighteen years of age or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. A parent may be required to support an adult child who is incapable of self-support due to a physical or mental disability. A parent is not required to contribute to a child’s college education expenses unless he or she has contractually obligated himself or herself to do so.

How does Pennsylvania calculate child support?

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Child support is generally determined by the support guidelines published by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. A child support calculator may help you to estimate the proper amount of child support according to the Pennsylvania guidelines. For a more accurate calculation, you might wish to consult with a Pennsylvania child support attorney.

If the parents’ combined net monthly income exceeds the limits of the support guidelines (presently $30,000 per month), the amount of child support is determined by a formula. The guidelines and child support formula are based upon the parent’s net monthly income. A spouse’s net monthly income is equal to his or her gross monthly income from all sources, less federal, state and local income taxes, FICA taxes, union dues, mandatory retirement contributions, and alimony paid to the other spouse. Voluntary payroll deductions, such as charitable contributions, credit union deductions, savings bonds, and voluntary retirement contributions are not deducted from gross income.

How does custody affect child support?

The basic child support award may be reduced where the non-custodial parent exercises custody for more than 40% of the time. The percentage of time is determined by the number of overnights that each parent has custody.  In addition to the basic child support award, the non-custodial parent must contribute his or her proportionate share of the child’s health insurance premiums, unreimbursed medical, dental and optical expenses, and child care expenses. Additionally, the non-custodial parent may be responsible for his or her share of private school tuition, summer camp expenses, tutoring, sports or arts lessons, or other special needs, if such expenses are reasonable in light of the parents’ incomes and station in life. These obligations are added to the basic amount of child support.

Are Pennsylvania support guidelines binding?

There is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support determined under the support guidelines is the proper amount. The amount of child support determined under the support guidelines may be increased or reduced if one of the parents can demonstrate unusual needs, fixed obligations, or other reasons that justify deviation from the support guidelines. The child support rules provide nine factors that a court may consider in its decision to increase or decrease the basic child support award.

How does Pennsylvania enforce child support orders?

Pennsylvania employs a state-wide computerized child support collection system, known as PACSES (Pennsylvania Automated Child Support Enforcement System). All child support orders are enforced by wage attachment unless the recipient agrees to waive the wage attachment.  Even then, the payor must send child support to a central agency in Harrisburg, not directly to the other parent. If child support arrears exist, PACSES may take enforcement action, such as increasing the wage attachment, intercepting the payor’s IRS refund, establishing a lien against the payor’s property, or suspending the payor’s drivers license, hunting or fishing license, or professional license.

A child support obligation begins to run when the action is filed, even though the hearing may be held several weeks later. If the payor does not make any payments until the hearing, child support arrears may accrue for several weeks, triggering possible enforcement action. For this reason, the payor may wish to make voluntary payments before the hearing. Generally, the court will grant credit for an obligor’s voluntary payments if receipts are produced at the hearing.

When does Pennsylvania modify child support?

A parent may request modification of child support where there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances, such as a change in custody or a parent’s income. Modification is generally retroactive to the date on which the request for modification is filed. Where a parent seeks modification because the child has turned 18 and graduated from high school, however, the modification is generally retroactive to the date of the child’s emancipation.

Child Support Articles

The following links contain child support news and information:

Why is Child Support Based on Income, Without Considering Expenses?

How to Pay Child Support

Can I use Take-Home Pay to Calculate Child Support?

Submit Medical Expenses for Reimbursement by March 30

2011 Child Support Update

Six Most Important Child Support Cases

2010 Child Support Update

2009 Child Support Update

Common Tags: Child Support Laws, Child Support in Pennsylvania, Child Support Income, Paying Child Support, Support Income for Children, Pennsylvania Child Support Attorney, Child Support Modification, Enforcing Child Support