In a recent firm blog, we discussed some major changes to Pennsylvania’s child support guidelines, effective January 1, 2022, and impacting the amount of child support many individuals will now pay or receive. These changes are a part of a regular review of current support guidelines in the commonwealth.
Every four years, Pennsylvania is required to revisit its support guidelines. The federal government mandates this review to ensure that child support orders are based on the most current factors. In Pennsylvania, the review is done by the Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee (DRPRC) of the state supreme court.
The DRPRC began its most recent review in 2019, studying 20,000 child support orders that were either new or modified during the fiscal years of 2017 and 2018. The records were pulled from the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement System, the system used to track and manage child support cases. The committee looked at parents’ earnings, income and evidence of ability to pay. That review resulted in updated guidelines, which the committee announced in early 2021. By way of example:
- For parents whose combined net monthly income is between $4,000 and $10,000, there was a 10% increase for one child and less than a 15% change for 2 or more children.
- For parents whose combined net monthly income is between $10,000 and $15,000, there was a 15% change for one child and a 23% change for more than one child.
- For parents whose combined net monthly income is between $20,300 and $22,600, the increase is between 22% and 24%.
It is important to note that courts do not automatically grant child support increases for these changes – a child support modification request must be filed. Even more importantly, while these changes affect payments for the majority of those paying support in Pennsylvania, there is a separate set of rules for those in high-income divorces. When the parents’ combined income exceeds $30,000 net per month, support payments are based on a different calculation that involves a three-step court process:
Step 1: Temporary Support Set
To get the payment process started, the court sets an initial amount, based on the combined monthly income of the parents. The calculation is done as follows:
- One child: $3,608 + 4.0% of combined monthly net income
- Two children: $4,250 + 4.0% of combined monthly net income
- Three children: $4,951 + 4.7% of combined monthly net income
- Four children: $5,530 + 5.3% of combined monthly net income
- Five children: $6,083 + 5.8% of combined monthly net income
- Six children: $6,613 + 6.3% of combined monthly net income
Step 2: Adjustments Based on Custody
The court then takes the previous calculation and adjusts it based on additional factors:
- Custody – Is it shared 50/50, or do the children live and spend a larger percentage of time with one parent?
- Expenses – Often the custodial parent will manage and administer more of the costs related to the children. Is this the case, or does the support paying parent also absorb such expenses?
Step 3: Final Analysis and Determination
The final step is an analysis and possible adjustment based on the child(ren)’s “reasonable needs.” The court takes several things into account:
- Factors that would change the calculated amount such as unusual needs or fixed obligations, medical expenses not covered by insurance, the child’s age, other financial obligations related to the child that are covered by the custody-paying parent, additional household income, and added relevant factors that involve the child’s best interest.
- Additional costs and expenses, such as childcare, health insurance premiums, unreimbursed medical expenses, private school tuition, summer camp, or other documented expenses.
- Actual expenses (e.g., food, clothing, transportation, extracurriculars).
While the new child support rules in Pennsylvania are straightforward for most families, the determination of child support for high-income divorces remains as complex as ever with a variety of factors that can influence payments. An experienced high-income custody attorney in Bucks County can guide you so you’re in the best position to protect the ongoing financial needs of you and your children.
In my next blog, I will address adjustments to high end child support orders that can mean a difference in support orders of thousands and thousands of dollars per month.
Whether or not you are involved in a high-income divorce, you will benefit from experienced counsel. If you are seeking a Bucks County attorney to guide you through the child support changes, or if you have questions about parenting coordination, custody issues or divorce in Pennsylvania, we can help. Contact us at 215-340-2207 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.