The Mystery of Child Support in Pennsylvania


The Mystery of Child Support in Pennsylvania

Why do I have to pay child support?  Why is my child support so high?  I’m out of work so why do I have to pay child support? How do they calculate child support?  I have shared custody (50/50) so why do I have to pay child support?  Can the custodial parent use the child support payments to pay their rent?  These are just a few questions that are often asked about child support.  I will attempt to solve the mystery of child support.

The intent of support is to offset the burden of child-related costs so that the parent with less income, or who has the child a greater amount of time, can maintain the child’s needs and so that the child’s standard of living between homes remains as consistent as possible.

Child support may be used on general household expenses such as food, rent or mortgage, utilities, and so on to maintain a safe and decent home for the child.  Some other common uses of child support are clothes for the child, tuition, school supplies, school fees, extra-curricular activities, medical expenses, dental expenses, toys, shoes, etc…  With these expenses in mind the court determines what an adequate amount of child support to be paid.  So, the next big mystery is how is this amount calculated?

Pennsylvania has support guidelines which are used for most cases.  These guidelines take the net monthly income of both parents and provides the total basic support that should be provided for the child.  The number will vary depending on how many children.  You then must divide that amount between the two parents.  Simple, well it is a lot more that goes into arriving at a child support payment.

Let’s start with net income.  It is not just what you see every paycheck.  There are certain deductions that are allowed for child support purposes and certain ones that are excluded.  In general, the deductions that are required are allowed and the elected deductions are excluded.  For example, a person can’t just elect to put 20% of their pay into their 401K to reduce their child support payment.

Now that you have the total amount the State believes should be spent each month on support you now have to assign the non-custodial parent (or parent with the lesser earning, in the case of shared custody) a support amount to pay each month.  Now you don’t just give each parent an equal responsibility for this amount.  You must divide the total amount the non-custodial earns by the total amount they both earn collectively.

Ex.  Custodial parent makes $50K.  non-custodial parent makes $100K.   Together they make $150K.  To get the child support amount take $100K / $150K = 67%.   Now take the basic child support number and divide it by 67% and you have the basic child support payment!!!  But wait there is more…

To get the true child support amount you must go beyond the basic.  There are other expenses that can be added to the child support order:

  • Medical expenses (Premium, deductible)
  • School cost (Tuition, activities, etc.)
  • Extra-curricular activities (Sports, dance, music, camp, etc.)
  • Daycare (Nanny, after school care, etc.)
  • And much more…

Typically, the total cost of these expenses are divided in the same manor as the basic child support.  Now you know how child support in Pennsylvania works.  But wait there is more…

There are mortgage deviations, adjustments for Shared or substantial custody, adjustments for prior support orders and more.  Ok, so maybe I could not solve the mystery of child support in Pennsylvania in one Blog.  Luckily for you there are experienced Family Lawyers that can walk you through the process to make sure the proper child support is paid.  LaMonaca Law is a family law firm that will help you through the child support process.  Call LaMonaca Law at 610-892-3877 to get more information on initial consultations.


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About the author

About Brady Johnson, IV

Brady Johnson graduated from LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. After College Brady began his career in Banking, attending Law School at night. Brady received his Juris Doctorate from Widener Law School in Wilmington Delaware. Mr. Johnson focused his studies on Trial Advocacy, Child Abuse and Neglect, Counseling and Negotiations. Mr. Johnson is a member of the American Bar Association and Pennsylvania Bar Association.