This is the second in a three-part series. Read the first part here.
After a child’s parents’ net monthly incomes have been determined, the next step in establishing a support amount is to calculate the base child support. To do this, the parents’ net monthly incomes are combined. A table established by the state is consulted next, finding first the income corresponding to the parties’ combined net monthly incomes, and then selecting the column indicating the number of children for whom support is to be ordered. This method differs slightly for low-income cases and for high-income cases. Low-income adjustments may be available where the obligor (the party paying support) has a net monthly income of $950-$2,100 per month, depending on the number of children. High-income cases are those in which the parties’ net monthly income exceeds $30,000 per month.
The vast majority of support matters, however, fall within the range of incomes provided for by the support rules. Finding the parties’ net monthly income first, one then follows that row across the chart to the column corresponding to the number of children for which support is to be ordered. For instance, where the parties earn a combined net monthly income of $5,000 per month and they have two children, the total base support amount would be $1,369 per month. This is the total amount of support that Pennsylvania has established as being necessary for the support of two children who have parents earning a combined net monthly income of $5,000. This total base support amount, however, needs to be apportioned between the parents.
Pennsylvania uses the “income shares model” for apportioning support between parents. In the above example of parents who earn a combined net monthly income of $5,000, suppose that the non-custodial parent earns $2,000 of that, and the custodial parent earns $3,000. In this scenario, the non-custodial parents earns 40% (2000 divided by 5000) of the combined income, and the custodial parent earns 60% (3000 divided by 5000). Therefore, the non-custodial parent would owe a base support amount of 40% of the total base support amount of $1,369, or $547.60. The custodial parent would owe the remaining 60%, or $821.40. The court, however, presumes that the custodial parent pays his or her share of support by virtue of having primary custody of the children.
The next and final step in calculating child support is the consideration of any deviations, which will be the subject of the next weekly installment in this series.