How Much Will Your Child Support Be?
Child support is the responsibility and obligation of both parents to provide for a child’s physical, emotional and mental well-being. It is not simply a financial matter, as many people assume. In any instance where a child’s parents are no longer living together or married, the residential parent is entitled to support from the non-residential parent.
The main question most parents have when the topic of child support comes up is how the court determines the amount of child support that the support paying parent will be ordered to pay.
Child support in Pennsylvania is calculated by a mathematical formula set forth in law. In general, child support in Pennsylvania is calculated using the “income shares” model so that each parent’s share of the basic support obligation is proportional to his or her monthly net income. The court can deviate from this formula based upon several circumstances relevant to the family situation.
What Factors Do Family Courts Consider When Calculating Child Support?
Pennsylvania courts consider four primary factors when calculating child support:
Monthly Income After Taxes: How much a parent has to pay in support is based on each parent’s monthly income after taxes, other mandatory deductions, and alimony payments.
Number of Children: Child support is based on the number of children who will be receiving support and how custody is arranged for them.
Physical custody schedule: The parent who has the most overnight visits with the child (generally, the custodial parent) will receive child support. For non-custodial parents who have their child stay overnight 40% of the year, there may be a discount on child support.
Additional Expenses for Raising a Child: If the child has a disability or another issue that can influence living expenses, these can be factored into the case.
How Much Will a Parent Have to Pay in Support?
In Pennsylvania, child support is calculated by:
Determining Each Parent’s Income: First, each parent’s monthly income needs to be determined. This includes salaries, hourly wages, rental incomes, investments, and any other forms of income. Each side should subtract the amount of taxes they will pay to get their monthly income. Example: Parent A nets $5,000 a month. Parent B nets $3,000 a month.
Adjusting for Spousal Support/Alimony: If one parent is receiving alimony or spousal support, then that amount should be added to his or her monthly income. In addition, the parent who is paying alimony or spousal support should subtract those payments from his or her monthly income. Example: Parent A makes $5,000 a month but pays $500 in alimony. Parent A’s monthly income is $4,500 after alimony, while Parent B’s income is $3,500.
Combining Both Incomes: Once you have the monthly incomes, add them together. Example: The combined monthly income is $8,000.
Calculating How Much Each Parent Contributes: After you have the total monthly income for both parents, take each parent’s monthly income and divide it by the total income. Example: Parent A’s monthly contribution is $4,500/$8,000 or 56%. Parent B’s monthly contribution is $3,500/$8,000 or 44%.
Reviewing the Child Support Schedule: Child support may be adjusted based on the number of children involved, according to the Pennsylvania Child Support Schedule. To determine the minimum amount of support, you should compare the number of children to the combined monthly income on the schedule. Example: There are two children involved in this case. For a combined monthly income of $8,000, basic child support is set at $1,795.
Multiplying the Basic Child Support by the Contribution Percentage: If a parent is responsible for paying support, he should multiply his contribution percentage with the basic child support amount. Example 1: Parent A does not have physical custody and is responsible for paying child support. Support is calculated at 56% x $1,795 or $1,005.20. Example 2: Parent B does not have physical custody and is responsible for paying child support. Support is calculated at 44% x $1,785 or $789.80.
Adjusting for Additional Expenses: If there are any additional expenses, each parent may be responsible for paying them based on his or her contribution percentage. This can include daycare, babysitting, or athletic fees. Example: Both parents have to pay for daycare, which is $500 a month. Parent A would pay 56% x $500 or $280. Parent B would pay 44% x $500 or $220.
If you need assistance estimating child support, you can also calculate it online.
Can Child Support Be Adjusted?
A parent may be able to modify the amount of child support when he or she experiences a change in living situations. For example, if the supporting parent loses her job, experiences a sudden injury, or is going through bankruptcy, her attorney may be able to petition for child support payments to be paused or lowered based on her new income.
However, the opposite is also true. If one parent receives a pay increase and is more capable of providing for a child, then payments may be adjusted on both sides. For example, if the custodial parent receives a promotion at work, then the amount of support she receives can be lowered. Or, if a non-custodial parent gets a new job that pays more, then she may have to pay more in support.
Calculating a child support obligation can be difficult. We encourage you to consult with one of Fiffik Law Group’s experienced child support lawyers to discuss all your options if you have an issue paying or receiving child support. We have more than 40 years of experience guiding parents through family court and helping them establish and modify child support orders