While divorce is a life changing event for all involved, Pennsylvania child support laws work to ensure that children receive the same financial assistance they enjoyed before their parents split after the divorce. State law requires both parents to provide financial support; the parent who does not have custody of the children typically pays support to the other parent.
Calculating Child Support
In Pennsylvania, child support is calculated according to the income shares model, which provides that children receive the same amount of financial support from their parents as they did before the divorce. The law provides a chart, which lists the total amount of support the child may receive based on the combined income of both parents. This model assumes the custodial parent provides her share of support directly to the child, while the noncustodial parent pays out child support based on the percentage of his income. For example, if the combined monthly income of both parents is $1,000 and the noncustodial parent makes $800, he will pay 80 percent of the required support to the custodial parent.
Deviations and Adjustments
With the exception of situations in which a parent can show the outcome of the support calculation is unfair, the court will not deviate from the standard, but the judge can adjust the amount based on other expenses. If a parent is also providing child support to children from a previous relationship, the court may reduce his child support obligation for the children of the current relationship. Also, in some cases, the court may order a parent to help pay for child care, health insurance or medical expenses, in addition to child support.
Enforcement of Support Orders
When a parent fails to pay child support as ordered by the court, Pennsylvania law provides several enforcement measures to ensure children have the financial support they need. The domestic relations office may withhold wages from the parent's paycheck, take federal or state tax refunds, intercept lottery winnings or order banks to turn over assets. The state can also prohibit a parent who is behind on child support payments from renewing licenses or passports. In cases where a parent owes a lot of money, the state can fine or even imprison the parent.
If the financial situation of either parent substantially changes for the better or worse, either parent can ask the court for a modification of the support order. Both parents have an obligation to report any substantial changes, such as a job loss or illness, to the domestic relations office. If one parent suspects the other parent had a significant increase in income and did not report it, she may request a hearing with the domestic relations office. However, even if circumstances have not changed, either parent may ask for the support order to be reviewed once every three years.