All parents have a financial duty to continue to support their child/children even when they are no longer living together until they attain the age of majority (18 years). This is mostly in cases of parents’ separation or divorce. In Pennsylvania, the custodial parent is entitled to child support even though he/she might be generating more income than the other parent.
The custodial parent is defined as the parent with primary custody of the child (lives with the child/children for more than 50% of the overnights in 2 weeks). However, in equal share of custody, child support is paid by the parent who generates the most income to the less income-earner parent.
In cases of parents with partial custody, the parent is entitled to a discount on the amount of his child support responsibility if he or she lives with the child/children for more than 40% of the overnights in 2 weeks.
Child support cases in Pennsylvania are handled by the Bureau of Child Support Enhancement (BCSE). The award or payment is calculated based on the Pennsylvania child support guidelines. The statute considers the child’s reasonable needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter, as well as the paying parent’s ability to provide support.
For the most part, child support in Pennsylvania is calculated by plugging numbers into a mathematical formula set forth by the Guidelines. The numbers in the Guidelines chart reflect what the courts believe would take to support the child/children if the parents were still residing together and sharing finances.
According to the statute, the starting point in determining child support is first establishing which party will receive child support. Once this is determined, both parents’ monthly income is required to determine how much money is owed. This includes wages, salaries, rental property income, pensions, bonuses and commissions. Once the net income is established (after taxes), there are several deductions allowed for expenses that reduce the amount of income. This includes alimony/spousal maintenance, mandatory retirement contributions and union dues as well as income tax obligations.
The monthly income of both parents is then combined and looked upon the Guidelines to determine the total amount of child support required for the child/children.
For example, If both parents’ income adds up to $8000 for a child support obligation of 3 children, first, look up the guidelines for a combined income of $8000. Then look right to find the guidelines for $8000 combined income for three children on the chart to get the total support amount. The chart might indicate that the total amount both parents are responsible for is $1279. This total amount is divided by the percentage of net income contribution of each parent to get each parent’s single obligation.
However, it is important to note that the total child support amount might vary or the court might deviate from the formula if it deems it unjust or inappropriate. At times, the amount would also increase or decrease for a particular parent based on various factors.