Courts order child support in PA to help defray the costs of raising a child.
Let’s start with the basics. Maintenance obligations generally last until the child reaches the age of 18. However, payments can extend beyond that if the child is still in high school or has physical or mental issues that require additional support. A family law child support attorney can offer more information about help guidelines in Pennsylvania.
Child support payments also do not end automatically when a child turns 18. In PA, the parent paying child support must submit a variation request to stop the payments. Until the termination of the order, the parent is obliged to continue payments. Learn more about terminating child support here.
To receive child support in PA, parents can agree to ask a judge to approve child support in a civil case involving a divorce. In most cases, however, the process begins with filing a child support application. This request is then submitted to a local PA domestic relations office.
PA Child Support Determination – Who Pays Who and How Much?
Courts determine child support amounts using the Child Support Guidelines established by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. But child support is based on the reasonable needs of the child. In addition, it takes into account the parents’ reasonable ability to pay.
Guidelines for child support in the PA base payments on both parents’ monthly income and number of children. The custody arrangement determines who receives child support and who pays it. For example, the parent with primary physical custody receives child support from the parent with partial physical custody.
Although the guidelines establish the basis for support, parents can make a deal that pays more or less than the guideline recommendations. In addition, the courts can order child support even if the parents are not working. Therefore, it is best to enlist the support of a family law attorney to help clear things up.
Child support covers items such as:
- Financial assistance for food, clothing and housing
- Health insurance
- Education expenditure
- Childcare costs
- Medical fees
- Visit travel expenses
Every four years, the Pennsylvania legislature evaluates child support guidelines. Then it updates them to reflect cost of living and other procedural changes.
The Pennsylvania Domestic Relations Rules Committee uses a mathematical formula to measure how much of household income parents spend on their children. This forms the baseline for what parents of divorced, separated, and unmarried children should spend, with the idea that they intend to spend an equivalent amount. The survey data is updated every few years, leading to updated child support guidelines.
Updated Pennsylvania Guidelines for Support for 2022
As noted, the guidelines change every four years, so on January 1, 2022, Pennsylvania enacted new child support guidelines. Talk to a family attorney near you to see if the new PA child support guidelines affect you.
The new guidelines reject child support reductions based on expected or temporary income fluctuations. Additionally, if the paying parent encounters a situation beyond their control, such as illness, layoff, or termination, the guidelines support a reduction in child support payment in PA. Other critical updates include those featured below. Again, a family law attorney can clarify the impact of these updates.
Expect to pay more for child support.
With the new guidelines, you will generally pay more for child support. How much more depends on your combined income level.
Generally, as your income and the number of children increase, your child support also increases. For example, with a combined monthly income of $20,000, child support payments increased by 22%, or an additional $1,550 per month for a total of $3,890 in 2022 for one child.
Here is a closer look at the guideline payment adjustments:
Removal of the 30% reduction for parenting time
Under previous guidelines, courts reduced child support by 30% for alleged parenting time. But this provision has been removed. So now there is no presumption of custody time. As a result, most cases will see an increase in child support.
Introduction of an adjustment for custody over 40%
The new guidelines include that the more time you spend with the children, the greater your expenses.
Let’s say you have joint physical custody and are paying child support. If you have 40% or more on-call time, including overnight stays, the new guidelines entitle you to a decrease in basic support.
Earning Capacity Adjustments
The PA Supreme Court also considered earning capacity. He made the following revisions:
- A parent would receive no income adjustment if they took a lower-paying job to meet a support obligation. The same principle applies to a parent who leaves or changes jobs voluntarily or for cause.
Earning capacity only applies to one full-time job. Thus, only one full-time job counts if you work at more than one job.
Earning capacity now takes childcare costs into account.
Provisions for additional charges
Courts must now include reasonable childcare responsibilities and expenses with earning capacity. Additional payments also apply to parents for expenses related to education, extracurricular activities or development as long as the expense is reasonable given each parent’s circumstances.
The parent requesting an expense allowance must promptly provide supporting documents for these expenses upon receipt. Previous guidelines required documentation by March 31 of the following year. Expenses may relate to:
- unreimbursed medical expenses
- extra-curricular activities
- private school lessons
- summer camp, etc.
Filing a PA Child Support Variation Application
Despite the January 1, 2022 updates, increases do not automatically apply to past decisions. Instead, parents or a family law attorney must file a variation application to get new court orders.
These requests for modification must present the reasons for filing and mention the change in directives.