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How are child support payments calculated?

For divorcing parents, a primary concern may be the cost of child support. In Pennsylvania, child support is a source of income for many families. Over half a million children are recorded on the state’s child support caseload records and in the 2014 fiscal year, the Pennsylvania Child Support Program (PCSP) collected and distributed $1.3 billion in child support. The average amount of a child support payment in Pennsylvania is $421 per month, which is slightly lower than the national average of $481 per month.

 

Custodial schedule factors

Child support is awarded to the primary care giving parent, which is the parent who has the child 50 percent of the nights or more. However, a parent who has the child for 40 percent of the nights is entitled to a discount on child support paid; the discount is prorated into the payment. In a 50/50 custody arrangement, child support can still be awarded to the spouse with the lower income.

Mathematical formula

Pennsylvania uses the combined adjusted net income of both parents and the number of children to calculate child support payments. The financial guideline was developed on the premise that children of separated or divorced parents should receive the same parental income as if the parents were still together.

The combined net income is factored using the after tax income totals, but any paycheck deductions outside of taxes, such as 401k contributions are factored back in as income. The calculation formula does not include expenses for health insurance and child care costs, but these are factored in on a case-by-case basis when the case is reviewed.

Until legal adulthood and beyond

The law requires both parents to support their child until the child reaches age 18, but payments can extend beyond age 18 if the child is still in high school. Additionally, child support money owed remains as outstanding debt until repaid no matter the age of the child. Child support modifications will not eliminate arrears.

Child support expenses can be higher for parents with special needs children. Also, a child’s specific medical or educational needs will also increase child support. Support payments do not include money for extracurricular activities, enrichment programs or a college fund, unless specifically added in during the divorce.

If you need assistance with calculating child support, enforcing a child support order or any other family law matter, call Quinn, Buseck, Leemhuis, Toohey & Kroto, Inc. at (814) 806-2518. 

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