Myths about Child Support and Child Custody in Pennsylvania

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An article by Lee Block from The Huffington Post discusses the “Child Support Myths and Legends.” Our Pennsylvania Child Custody attorneys will tell you that there are indeed many myths surrounding the child custody process that should be dispelled before beginning a child custody battle.

In general, Pennsylvania’s standard for child custody cases is what is in the best interests of the child. However, many parties enter the child custody process with preconceived notions as to how their case will turn out. Our blog today will discuss these “myths” as laid out by Ms. Block’s article.

Myth #1: Women want Child Support so that they don’t have to work and support themselves.

Ms. Block’s article discusses this myth and dispels it by stating that “[a]person who pays child support or receives it, knows that it does not cover the mortgage or rent, utilities, food, clothing and all the other expenses that come up.” Child Support is meant to be a form of supplemental funds to use for the parties’ children, and the intent of Pennsylvania child support is not to allow one of the parents to stop working entirely.

Ms. Block also states in her article that a person’s mortgage payments and consistent monthly expenses do not change whether or not that person has their children with them all of the time or part of the time. So, the idea that child support is supposed to cover expenses in all aspects of the dependent party’s life is simply not true.

Myth #2: If my child’s other parent doesn’t pay child support, I can withhold custody of our child.

This is not the case in Pennsylvania. In PA, the duty to pay child support and custody rights are not interconnected. This means that your child support obligation is ongoing regardless of whether you are getting to see your children frequently. If you are not able to spend the time you think is proper or what you were provided with under a PA child custody order, do not automatically assume that you can stop paying your child support.

Myth #3: A mother will retain custody of the children unless the father can show that she is “unfit.”

Not true. Under PA law, there is no longer a presumption that a mother is a better parent or more “fit” than a father. A Pennsylvania court will consider the particular circumstances of the family and award custody based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Myth #4: The parent who maintains custody during the week has legal custody of the child.

This is not true. Many PA child custody orders will provide for a legal custody provision, setting forth the parties’ rights for making major life decisions involving the child. Just because one parent has custody time during the week, or presumably while the child is in school, that does not automatically give that parent the power to make all decisions regarding the child’s schooling, religion, or medical care. If the parties are court ordered to have shared legal custody, then that parent must always consult the other parent prior to making important decisions on the child’s behalf.