The Basics: Child Support in Pennsylvania

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Our clients often come to our office with countless questions about child support – especially because they want be sure that whether they are paying or receiving child support, that their children are being provided for and have what they need to live a healthy lifestyle. The goal of child support in PA is to give the child some semblance of the standard of living that the child would experience if the family remained intact.

Family Court Considerations: In order to determine a child support award in Pennsylvania, the family courts consider, at the time of the hearing, the parties’ incomes as well as the custodial arrangement at the time of the hearing. The award of child support is based on the reasonable needs of the child and the parents’ available income (which is determined after the court decides what the parents themselves need for reasonable needs).

Adoptive Parents: Upon adoption, the duty of support becomes the adoptive parent’s obligation and is no longer the obligation of the biological parent.

Paternity: Paternity issues may arise with child support, as either party may request genetic testing to the court which requires that genetic testing be conducted via court order to determine the Child’s Father for support purposes. The parties can also decide independently for a voluntary stipulation as to paternity “whereby both agree to submit to genetic testing for the purpose of resolving finally the issue of paternity. If the test results indicate a 99% or higher probability of paternity, the defendant shall be stipulated to be the biological father of the child and the case referred for a child support conference. If the test results indicate an exclusion, the action shall be dismissed. The written stipulation constitutes a waiver of the right to a hearing on the genetic testing or trial on the issue of paternity.” Rule 1910.15(b)(2).

Child Support Guidelines: Child Support amount is determined through use of the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines. Changes made to the guidelines became effective as of August 9, 2013. The child support guidelines are used by the court to establish a rebuttable presumption of the correct amount of child support. The child support guidelines are used in chart form – with one side being the “Combined Adjusted Net Income” of the parents, and the other side including the number of children in the family. Parties are entitled to “adjustments” and “deviations” when they have shown a special need or based on other financial obligations of the parties. In this case, a support order may exceed the Child Support Guideline amount if the court determines this is warranted. A parent may also seek a deviation in child support when their overnights meet or exceed 40%.