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Factors that affect Pennsylvania's child support formula

Whenever a court requires a noncustodial parent to pay his or her ex-spouse to meet their child's needs, it is not making an arbitrary or capricious decision, no matter what the supporting parent believes. Courts throughout the country, including in Pennsylvania, follow formulas that determine how much child support is needed and how much the parent can afford. By understanding the formula, parents can determine for themselves a fair and just amount that will meet their children's everyday expenses.

Pennsylvania's support guidelines are based on studies analyzing child-rearing costs. The amounts suggested by the results of these studies can change with the economy and the parent's financial circumstances. The guidelines are based on net income, not gross income. This means that a court calculates the income of the parent after taxes. In addition, the supporting parent's housing expenses are also considered in the calculations. Based on the latest federal census data, the average family income in Pennsylvania is $61,890; 30 percent of that income is used to pay rent and utilities.

Health-care expenses are also included in childsupport calculations. Courts require both parents to share a child's medical and dental expenses. If the supporting parent pays the child's medical expenses, a court is likely to adjust the balance of support to a fair level. Courts also require parents to provide health-care insurance for their children as well as out-of-pocket expenses such as insurance deductibles.

Child support is not a simple issue. The custodial parent should do his or her research before seeking child support from the other parent or a child support modification order from a court. Supporting parents should also learn more about the process to ensure that the amount is fair and just. In addition, they can enlist the help of an attorney to verify that the amount paid is reasonable.

Source: Center for Policy Research, "Review of the Pennsylvania child support guidelines," accessed on Nov. 27, 2014

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