Child Support Overview
In Pennsylvania, child support is calculated to provide the children with the same standard of living that existed when the parents were still together. To this end, the court looks at a number of factors, including the net income of each parent, earning capacity of each parent, number of children, and child custody arrangement. Additionally, the court will consider any extraordinary expenses related to taking care of the children, such as childcare costs.
Although child support and custody are two separate issues, the court will consider the custody arrangement when awarding child support. Because the custodial parent contributes a share of their support through housing, food, transportation and other needs, child support is often paid only by the noncustodial parent. But being awarded primary custody does not automatically lead to receiving child support. In determining custody, Pennsylvania courts are primarily concerned with what is in the best interest of the child. Generally, the courts will look at which parent can adequately provide for the child in terms of stability and meeting the child's educational, emotional and physical needs. Even when parents share custody, if one parent has greater income than the other, the parent with more income will generally be required to pay child support.
Net Income Calculation
In order to calculate child support obligations, the court will look at the net income of each parent and subtract allowable deductions. Pennsylvania law includes salaries, pension payments, commissions, Social Security benefits, income from rent and royalties, and in some cases, alimony, when determining the net income of each parent. The court will make certain deductions to the income, including taxes and alimony paid to the other party. The court will also make deductions for health care and insurance, as well as childcare and educational expenses. Once the net income of each parent is established, the court determines child support obligations by looking at the percentage of total income each parent contributes and the number of children.
Income from New Spouse
When a parent remarries, the new spouse has no obligation to support children that are not her own, but the new spouse's income may be relevant in calculating how much income is available for child support. If the household has more income coming in, the court may be more likely to conclude that the remarried parent is able to contribute more to child support. Pennsylvania courts have not set a formula for how a new spouse's income will impact the amount of child support. The custodial parent has the option to petition the court for modification any time the financial circumstances of either party significantly change.