Pennsylvania Child Support Calculator
How Child Support Is Calculated In Pennsylvania
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.
Factors that affect the amount of child support in Pennsylvania
These factors include:
- The custody schedule or custody arrangement of the child/children
- The number of children covered by the child support order
- If the child/children attend private school
- If a particular parent is responsible for the health/medical insurance of a child
- If there are unreimbursed medical expenses for the child to a particular party over $250
- The monthly after-tax incomes of the parties
- Additional costs the parties may incur for the child/children physical, mental and emotional welfare and;
- Split custody of children, where each parent has primary custody of one or more of the children in families with multiple children.
Other circumstances that may lead to a court deviating from the Guidelines are; (1) alimony/spousal maintenance (2) unusual needs or fixed obligations or other child support obligation of the parties (3) ages of the children/child (4) income in the household as well as liabilities held by the parties (5) If the combined total monthly income is off the Guidelines chart (Too high/low Income).
Applying for child support in Pennsylvania
The custodial parent or an attorney on behalf of the parent, or a person who has the responsibility of primary care of the child/children can apply for child support. This person with primary custody or care of the child can include a government agency such as Child and Youth Services or even the Juvenile court.
The application can be made electronically through the Pennsylvania Child Support Website or one can manually apply by filling out the application forms, complaint for support forms and the intake questionnaire from the Domestic Relations office in the county.
On occasion, you are not sure who your child’s legal father is. You will have to contact the Domestic Relation office before requesting the order. The office will help you establish the child/children’s paternity, locate the parent, and establish child support obligations. This is necessary as applications that do not state the legal father are denied. Besides, when it comes to online applications, either parent can file the application for a child support order.
The Domestic Relations Office submits and files the completed papers with the court as well as initiate a conference to determine how much child support should be paid. The conference is held at the Domestics Relations Office. Both parties must be present and submit evidence of their income and expenses. After analyzing all the evidence, the hearing officer recommends a child support order if they do not agree.
The recommended order is then submitted before a judge for review and signing. The courts will adopt the recommended order, but any aggrieved party that disagrees with the amount in the child support order can file an appeal within 20 days. A new hearing is then scheduled before a judge.
Kindly note: Before the judge gives a new order, the hearing officer child support order is still in effect and therefore, payments will be demanded or required.
Modifying to your child support order
For a child support order to be modified, there must be a significant change in circumstances. Such change may include loss of a job, ceasing of alimony upon divorce completion, if either party is convicted or a child turns 18 and graduates from high school.
You can file an online petition for modification on the Pennsylvania Child Support Website to request a change. You can also agree with the other parent and submit the agreement to the Domestic Relations Office for approval. By law, both parties must report to the Domestic Relations Office in writing if there are any changes in circumstances, addresses, phone numbers or employment.
Enforcement of the child support order in Pennsylvania
A child support order is legally binding and enforcement actions are taken seriously if one fails to make complete and in time payments. If you cannot pay as ordered, the court can seize your income tax refund, suspend your driver’s license, garnish your wages, freeze and seize your bank accounts, deny you a passport, put liens on any or some of your real or personal property.
If enforcement programs initiated at the Domestic Relations office do not work, and all options have been exhausted in securing payment, a hearing is scheduled before a court and if found in contempt of the order, meaning you can pay, you can be sent to jail up to and including six months.
Finally, a custody claim and child support claim are handled in separate court orders and one cannot and should not interfere with the other. In that, if the father fails to make child support payments, the mother who is the custodial parent, in this case, cannot withhold visitation.