How is child support determined in Pennsylvania?

Family Law
By Goodwin Como, P.C.

When a couple with children decides to divorce, the topic of child support is bound to come up. Child support is a court-ordered monetary amount that one parent must pay to the other in order to help cover child-related expenses.

Child support is meant to help pay for:

  • Basic needs (food, shelter, clothing)
  • School fees
  • Childcare
  • Medical expenses not covered by insurance
  • Transportation expenses
  • Extracurricular activities

Who is responsible for paying child support?

This depends on who has primary custody, which is determined by whose home the child stays overnight in the majority of the time. If the child stays with the mother 55 percent of the time, then she has primary custody.

  • If the split in overnights is close but not equal (i.e., the parent with partial custody has the children at least 40 percent of overnights), then this parent is eligible for a discount in child support owed.
  • If custody is an exact 50-50 split between parents, then the parent who earns more money is responsible for child support.

How does the court determine how much a parent owes?

The court uses a complex formula to calculate the exact amount owed in child support. Certain case-by-case factors can also influence the court’s decision. Across the board, though, the court will consider the following common factors:

  • What is the net monthly income of each parent?
  • How many children are eligible for child support?
  • Are there additional expenses for the child the court needs to consider (healthcare premiums, tuition fees)?

How long is a child support order in effect?

Typically, child support payments must be made for any dependent child under the age of 18 or still in high school. A judge will reassess the child support arrangement every four years to determine whether the terms of the order need to be revised.