Guidelines for Child Support in PA

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Courts order child support in PA to help defray the costs of rearing a child.

Let’s start with the basics. Support obligations typically lasts until a child turns 18. However, payments can extend beyond that if a child is still in high school or has physical or mental conditions requiring additional support. A Child support family law attorney can offer more insight into guidelines for help in Pennsylvania.

Support payments also do not automatically end when a child turns 18. In PA, the parent paying support must submit a modification petition to stop payments. Until the order is terminated, the parent is obligated to continue payments. Learn more about child support termination here.

To receive child support in PA, parents can agree to ask a judge to approve support during a civil case involving divorce. In most instances, however, the process begins by completing an Application for Child Support. That application then gets submitted to a local PA Domestic Relations office.

Determining Child Support in PA – Who pays whom and how much?

Courts determine child support amounts using child support guidelines established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. But child support is based on the reasonable needs of the child. In addition, it considers the reasonable ability of parents to pay.

Guidelines for child support in PA base payments on both parent’s monthly income and the number of children. The child custody arrangement determines who receives support and who pays support. For example, the parent with primary physical custody receives child support from the parent with partial physical custody.

Although the guidelines establish the foundation for support, parents may reach an agreement that pays more or less than guideline recommendations. In addition, courts may order child support payments even if the parents aren't working. Therefore, it's best to enlist the support of a family law attorney to help clarify matters.

Support payments cover items such as:

  • Monetary support for food, clothing, and shelter
  • Health insurance
  • Education expenses
  • Child care expenses
  • Medical expenses
  • Visitation travel costs

Every four years, the Pennsylvania legislature assesses the child support guidelines. Then it updates them to reflect the cost of living and other procedural changes.

The Pennsylvania Domestic Relations Rules Committee uses a mathematical formula to measure what portion of household income parents spend on their children. That forms the baseline for what divorced, separated, and unmarried parents of children should spend, with the notion that they intend to spend an equivalent amount. Survey data updates every few years, leading to updated child support guidelines.

Updated Pennsylvania Guidelines for Support for 2022

As noted, 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 guidelines for child support in PA impact you.
The new guidelines reject child support reductions based on expected or temporary earning fluctuations. In addition, if the paying parent encounters a situation outside their control, like an illness, layoff, or termination, the guidelines support a reduction in payment for child support in PA. Other critical updates include those presented 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’ll generally pay more for child support. How much more depends on your combined income level.

Generally, as your income and number of children increases, so will your child support. For instance, with a $20,000 monthly combined income, support payments increased 22%, or an additional $1,550 per month for a 2022 total of $3890 for one child.

Here’s a closer look at the guideline’s payment adjustments:

updated pennsylvania support payment adjustments for 2022

Elimination of the 30% reduction for parenting time

Under previous guidelines, courts reduced child support by 30% for assumed parenting time. But that provision has been stripped. So now, there's no presumption of custody time. As a result, most cases will see increases in child support.

Introduction of an adjustment for custody of more than 40%

The new guidelines grasp that the more time you have the children, the greater your expenses.

Let’s assume you have shared physical custody and pay support. If you have 40% or more of custodial time, including overnights, the new guidelines entitle you to a decrease on the base support.

Adjustments to earning capacity

The PA Supreme Court addressed earning capacity as well. It made the following revisions:

  • A parent would receive no income adjustments if they took a lower-paying job to counter a support obligation. The same principle applies to a parent who leaves or changes employment voluntarily or for cause.
    Earning capacity applies only to one full-time job. So only one full-time job counts if you work at more than one job.
    Earning capacity now considers child care expenses.

Provisions for additional expenses

Courts must now include reasonable childcare responsibilities and expenses with earning capacity. Additional payments also apply to parents for costs relating to education, extracurricular, or developmental activities as long as the expense is reasonable under each parent's circumstances.

The parent seeking an expense allocation must promptly provide documentation for those expenses upon receipt. Previous guidelines requested documentation no later than March 31 of the following year. Expenses may relate to:

  • unreimbursed medical bills
  • extracurricular activities
  • private school tuition
  • summer camp, etc.

Filing a Modification Request for Child Support in PA

Despite the updates from January 1, 2022, increases don't apply to prior rulings automatically. Instead, parents or a family law attorney must file a modification request to secure new orders from the court.

Those modification requests must present grounds for filing and note the change in guidelines.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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