Child Support in Pennsylvania


Child Support in Pennsylvania

Child Support in Pennsylvania

Child support in Pennsylvania is determined by a set of guidelines that take into account the incomes of both parents, the number of children, and the custodial arrangements.

In order to guarantee that children receive the financial support necessary for their wellbeing, child support is an essential component. The state of Pennsylvania has put in place particular policies and processes for establishing and enforcing child support obligations. The principles of child support in Pennsylvania, including its computation, enforcement, and modification, will be covered in detail in this handbook.

What is Child Support?

Child support is a financial obligation that a non-custodial parent pays to the custodial parent to contribute to the costs associated with raising their child. This support covers various expenses such as housing, food, clothing, education, and medical care.

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How is Child Support Calculated in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania uses the Income Shares Model to calculate child support. This model estimates the amount that parents would spend on their children if they were living together and then divides this amount between the parents based on their incomes.

Key Factors in Calculation

1. Combined Monthly Net Income

The court determines each parent’s net income and combines them to arrive at a total monthly income.

2. Child Support Guidelines

Pennsylvania has a set of guidelines that specify the basic child support obligation based on the combined monthly net income and the number of children.

3. Proportional Income Share

Each parent’s share of the support obligation is proportional to their share of the combined income.

4. Additional Expenses

The court may also consider additional expenses such as medical costs, childcare, and educational expenses.


Suppose the combined monthly net income of both parents is $5,000, and they have two children. According to the guidelines, the basic support obligation might be $1,200. If Parent A earns $3,000 per month and Parent B earns $2,000 per month, Parent A would be responsible for 60% ($720) and Parent B for 40% ($480) of the $1,200.

Enforcement of Child Support Orders

Ensuring compliance with child support orders is vital for the child’s welfare. Pennsylvania has several mechanisms to enforce these orders:

1. Income Withholding

Employers can be directed to withhold child support payments directly from the non-custodial parent’s wages.

2. Contempt of Court

Failure to pay child support can result in the non-custodial parent being held in contempt of court, leading to fines or even jail time.

3. Interception of Tax Refunds

The state can intercept federal and state tax refunds to cover unpaid child support.

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4. License Suspension

Delinquent parents may face suspension of their driver’s, professional, or recreational licenses.

Modifying Child Support Orders

Changes in circumstances may necessitate a modification of the child support order. Either parent can request a modification if there is a significant change in income, employment status, or the needs of the child.

Process of Modification

1. Filing a Petition

The parent seeking the modification must file a petition with the court.

2. Review Hearing

A hearing will be scheduled where both parents can present evidence supporting their case for or against the modification.

3. Court Decision

Based on the evidence and guidelines, the court will decide whether to adjust the support amount.

Child support system in Pennsylvania requires understanding the guidelines, enforcement mechanisms, and processes for modification. While the primary goal of child support is to ensure the child’s needs are met, the system also aims to be fair and equitable for both parents. For those involved in child support cases, consulting with a family law attorney can provide valuable guidance tailored to individual circumstances.

By ensuring that child support obligations are met, Pennsylvania strives to protect the interests and well-being of children, providing them with the financial resources they need to thrive.

Frequently Asked Questions About Child Support in Pennsylvania

1. What is the purpose of child support?

Child support is designed to ensure that children receive financial support from both parents, regardless of whether they live together. It helps cover the costs of raising a child, including expenses for housing, food, clothing, education, and healthcare.

2. Who can apply for child support?

Either parent can apply for child support, regardless of whether they are the custodial or non-custodial parent. In some cases, a guardian or a state agency (if the child is in foster care) may also apply for child support.

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3. How do I apply for child support in Pennsylvania?

To apply for child support, you need to file a complaint with the Domestic Relations Section (DRS) of the Court of Common Pleas in the county where you or the other parent lives. The DRS will guide you through the process, including scheduling a support conference to determine the appropriate amount.

4. How is child support calculated?

Pennsylvania uses the Income Shares Model to calculate child support. The calculation considers the combined monthly net income of both parents, the number of children, and the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines. Each parent’s share of the support obligation is proportional to their share of the combined income.

5. What factors are considered in determining child support?

Several factors influence child support calculations, including:
The income of both parents.
The number of children.
Additional expenses like childcare, medical insurance, and educational costs.
Any existing support obligations for other children.

6. Can child support orders be modified?

Yes, child support orders can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in income, employment status, or the needs of the child. Either parent can file a petition for modification with the court.

7. How is child support enforced?

Pennsylvania employs several methods to enforce child support orders, including:

Income withholding from the non-custodial parent’s wages.

Intercepting tax refunds.

Suspending driver’s, professional, or recreational licenses.

Contempt of court proceedings, which can result in fines or jail time.

8. What happens if a parent doesn’t pay child support?

If a parent fails to pay child support, the DRS can take enforcement actions such as wage garnishment, intercepting tax refunds, and suspending licenses. Persistent non-payment can lead to contempt of court charges, which may result in fines or imprisonment.

9. Does child support cover college expenses?

Pennsylvania law does not automatically require parents to pay for college expenses. However, parents can agree to share these costs, or the court can order it if it is in the best interest of the child and both parents have the financial ability to contribute.

10. How long does child support last?

In Pennsylvania, child support generally continues until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. Support may be extended if the child has special needs or if the parents agree to a longer duration.

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