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Pennsylvania Child Support
Child Support in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, either or both parents may be ordered to provide child support, based on their ability to pay. The courts consider the net income, assets and earning power of the parents, any unusual needs of the child or the parents, and any extraordinary expenses.

The official Pennsylvania Child Support guidelines help determine the correct amount of child support. These guidelines are followed unless the parents have agreed to a child support amount approved by the court, or the court finds these guidelines unjust for a particular case. The formula used in the guidelines to determine each parent's support obligation is based on the combined income of both parents, and then determines each parent's prorated share of the base support amount.

The court may order payment of support through the Domestic Relations Section of the court.

The court may require that health insurance coverage be provided for any child if it is available at a reasonable cost. Child support payments may be ordered paid through the Domestic Relations Section of the court. Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated; Title 23, Section 4322 and Pennsylvania Case Law describes child support.

Pennsylvania uses the Income Shares Model to determine the amount of child support the noncustodial parent must pay. The Income Shares Model estimates the amount of support that would have been available if the marriage had not failed. This estimated amount is then divided proportionally to the parents according to each parent's income. This is easy to do using the Pennsylvania child support worksheet. Pay records typically substantiate the estimated incomes.

This routine takes into account both parents' gross income and applies a percentage to it based on the number of minor children they have together. The court takes the combined income of both parents and works out the proportion each contributes. That figure is then divided proportionately based on each parent's ability to pay and which parent has primary custody.

If the noncustodial parent has a higher income than the custodial parent, the noncustodial parent would then be responsible for the greater portion of the child support obligation; conversely, if the noncustodial parent has a lower income than the custodial, the noncustodial parent would then be responsible for the smaller portion of the child support obligation.

Pennsylvania child support is typically calculated by using a Child Support Worksheet. The worksheet generates an appropriate support obligation according to each spouse's income and other factors such as taxes paid and retirement contributions. Once this amount is determined it is essential to take a look at any appropriate Pennsylvania child support deviation factors that may be applicable to the situation. Additional information about Pennsylvania child support can be found in the Pennsylvania state statutes.

Other Expenses and Deductions

Extraordinary expenses are either add-ons, where the expense is added to the support payment, or deductions, where the amount is deducted, and indicated as either mandatory or permissive. Childcare and extraordinary medical expenses are considered mandatory deductions. Pennsylvania provides for extraordinary medical expenses and childcare costs as add ons.

The court requires that the noncustodial parent provide coverage for the children if health care is available at a reasonable cost through employment or other group coverage. Unless the noncustodial parent is already providing health care to the children, the custodial parent must provide coverage if it is available to them at a reasonable cost through employment or other group coverage.

In Pennsylvania, one or both parents must provide medical insurance coverage for the children when custody is shared and both parents have insurance.

When neither parent has access to employment related benefits, the court orders one or both parents to obtain health care coverage for the children.

In the case of uninsured expenses, the court assigns a percentage of these expenses to each parent, dividing any deductible between each parent.

The parent responsible for providing insurance coverage must provide proof of coverage within thirty days of the order or after any change in employment or coverage. This proof includes the the name of the insurance company, the identification number, insurance cards, the address, a copy of the benefit booklet, a list of deductibles and co-payments, and claim forms.

Child Support Enforcement

In the case of non-payment, child support can be enforced administratively by any of the following methods:

  • Income Execution-All child support orders are required to provide for wage withholding.
  • Income Tax Refund Offset-Any state or federal income tax refund due to the payer can be intercepted and applied to the repayment of the past due support/arrears.
  • Lottery Prize Offset-The support collection unit can intercept Lottery prizes in excess of $600 and apply it to the repayment of the past due support/arrears.
  • Driving Privilege Suspension-The support collection unit can direct the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend that payer's driving privileges.
  • Property Execution-Seize the liquid assets (e.g., bank accounts) of child support payers who owe past due support/arrears, and apply the proceeds to the repayment of past due support/arrears.
  • Liens-Place liens against real or personal property of child support payers who owe past due support/arrears. A lien will prevent the sale or transfer of the property until the past due support/arrears are repaid.
  • Referral to the Tax Department-Pennsylvania State Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) is authorized to apply all methods available for the collection of past due taxes to the collection of past due child support. This method is particularly useful against self-employed persons who own businesses.
  • Credit Bureau Reporting-Arrears are presented as a bad debt to all major consumer credit reporting agencies. This action is likely to negatively affect the ability of the child support payer to obtain credit.

There are numerous avenues that the court may follow to prosecute non-payment of child support, including the suspension of the payer's business, professional or occupational licenses, suspension of the payer's recreational licenses, and/or the requirement of the payer to post an undertaking (an amount of money paid in advance against which future child support payments can be drawn).

More information about Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement can be found at their website.

Emancipation

Child support ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. A child will also automatically be ineligible for child support is removed from disability status by a court order.

Deviation Factors

According to Rule 1910.16-5, Support Guidelines, Deviation, "[i] f the amount of support deviates from the amount of support determined by the guidelines, the trier of fact shall specify, in writing or on the record, the guideline amount of support, and the reasons for, and findings of fact justifying, the amount of the deviation."

The deviation applies to the amount of the support obligation, not to the amount of income, and is based on these factors:

  • unusual needs and unusual fixed obligations;
  • other support obligations of the parties;
  • other income in the household;
  • ages of the children;
  • the relative assets and liabilities of the parties;
  • medical expenses not covered by insurance;
  • standard of living of the parties and their children;
  • in a spousal support or alimony pendente lite case, the duration of the marriage from the date of marriage to the date of final separation; and
  • other relevant and appropriate factors, including the best interests of the child or children.

Private school tuition, for instance, is a deviation factor.

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