Child Support Guidelines

In order to calculate how much child support is owed, Pennsylvania courts use the Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines look at the parties’ combined net income, which is income after all taxes and deductions have been pulled, as well as the number of children. Income includes all money, regardless of the source, such as wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, royalties, interest, pensions, retirement, social security benefits, workers’ compensation, and lottery winnings.

Pennsylvania’s Child Support Guidelines are based upon the Income Shares Model. The goal of the Income Shares Model is for the child to receive the same amount of support they would have received if the parents lived together. Numerous studies show that the proportion of household expenditures for children is directly related to both the amount of income the household generates and the number of children. The Guidelines are derived from studies that show how much intact families spend on their children. Because there is little research on how families who make over $30,000 a month spend money on their children, a separate calculation is used in these high-income cases.

The Guidelines are also based on how much custodial time the paying parent, or the obligor, spends with the child. The Guidelines assume that the obligor has 30% parenting time. However, the obligor receives reductions in the amount of support owed if they have more custodial time.

The Guidelines also mandate that the paying party retain at least enough income to meet their basic needs. Specifically, the obligor must retain at least $931 a month which is equivalent to the 2012 federal poverty level for one person.

The Guidelines seek to treat similarly situated parents and children in the same manner, and the Guidelines are presumed to be correct. However, some circumstances constitute a need to deviate from the Guidelines. In deciding whether to deviate from the Guidelines, the trier of fact is to consider several factors, such as other support obligations, other income in the household, ages of the children, and medical expenses not covered by insurance.


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Our Main Line child support lawyers have represented hundreds of parents seeking to obtain a fair child support order.   Call our Main Line child support attorneys to learn how we can help you with your PA child support modification or contempt issue.

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