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Child Support in Pennsylvania

February 28, 2012

2. Law

Child Support in Pennsylvania

Whenever I hear the label “deadbeat dad” I cringe.  The never-heard corollary – “spendthrift mom” – is somehow lost.  And that is the problem with child support.  The receiving party – mom or dad – has absolutely no legal requirement to account for the money received.  Don’t get me wrong; that doesn’t relieve the obligation to pay.  But the receiver can spend the money, hundreds or even thousands a month, on virtually anything they choose with complete impunity.  No wonder some payers get cranky.

How does support get calculated?  Here’s a simple calculator to estimate your obligation (assuming the other parent has primary custody).  In essence, you’re comparing net incomes, payments for health insurance, and child-support obligations from previous relationships.  Daycare expenses also come in.  What if the custodial parent doesn’t work?  They’ll usually impute an income based upon, at least, minimum wage.

If you’re more visual, go to this table.  It’ll give you a rough feel of the number.  Combine both net incomes then find the dollar amount based upon the number of kids.  Next, figure out the percent of the combined net incomes that is yours – you clear $1,200 a month, she clears $800, your share is 60%.  Multiply the number from the table by this percentage.  The result is your ballpark support obligation.

Read here for the law on calculating Net Income.

So your payment comes out to an outrageously high number.  “Screw it,” you say, “I’ll quit working 50 hours a week as a shop foreman, and start flipping burgers for Mickey D’s.”  Bad move.  Your income is based on the greater of actual income or a demonstrated ability to earn.

You refuse to pay?  Let’s not go there.  The obligation is not an agreement between you and the custodial parent.  It’s an Order of the Court.  Violating an Order is the basis for Contempt.  That can buy you 6 months in jail.  Think your life is complicated now?  Try spending six months behind bars with a bunch of clueless and angry youths only to find your job not waiting for you when you get out.

There’s a few wrinkles of which to be aware.  If you have the kids about 30% of the time or more (calculated as overnights – see calc here), then the amount of support can be adjusted.  Do yourself a favor – get one of those free calendars that hardware stores give out each year.  When you have the kids, jot it down when it happens.  The contemporaneous notations will allow the calendar to be reviewed by you on the witness stand when the custody or support is being reconsidered.

If your income is all over the map – seasonal, spikes of overtime, etc. – be sure to have three years of tax returns available when support is calculated.

All support payments – these kids, previous kids, spousal support – can’t exceed 50% of your net income.  Be sure you track every change.

Do not quit your job unless you’re walking straight into another one, and if you get let go then get to Domestic Relations immediately.  File a Petition to Modify immediately.  Here’s the drill – any change in support will be retroactive to the date of filing, not the date you lost your job.

If the marital home continues to be occupied by one of the parents then figure out the percentage of income the mortgage payment soaks up.  Go to paragraph “E” here.  If the payment is that big, maybe you should consider selling it.  Kids adjust – yes, it can be rough sometimes, but they adjust.

How long will payments have to be made?  Age 18 or graduation from high school – whichever is last.

The bottom line in support is that you can run but not hide.  Get an accurate calculation, pay it, live your life.

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About Clyde

Clyde is the lead attorney in the firm. Licensed to practice in 1993, he's also taught Constitutional and Criminal Law for several years at a private university, primarily at the Master's level.

View all posts by Clyde

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