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Calculating Child Support After a PA Divorce

By Sheryl Rentz on May 18, 2021

woman calculating child support payments

The amount of child support paid can be one of the most contentious issues after a divorce. Child support is meant to make sure both parents are contributing to their child’s well-being, but some parents may struggle to make payments after losing a job. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania family courts come down harshly on parents who miss payments, which is why it is important to make sure you pay on time and pay the right amount.

Who Has to Pay Child Support?

After a Pennsylvania divorce, child support is determined by the type of custody plan the parents have. Typically, the parent who does not have physical custody is required to pay child support to the custodial parent, but child support may also be required if the parents share custody. For example, if one parent has a higher income than the other, then she will be expected to pay child support to the other parent.

This is because both parents should contribute equally to their child’s development. If the child primarily lives with one parent, then that parent may have higher living expenses based on rent, meals, school, and other costs. Or, in joint custody situations, if one parent makes a lower wage than the other, then she may have difficulties taking care of the child when the child is in her care.

What Factors Do Family Courts Consider When Calculating Child Support?

Pennsylvania family courts consider four factors when calculating child support:

  1. Physical custody schedule: The parent who has the most overnight visits with the child (generally, the custodial parent) will receive child support. For non-custodial parents who have their child stay overnight 40% of the year, there may be a discount on child support.
  2. Number of Children: Child support is based on the number of children who will be receiving support and how custody is arranged for them.
  3. Monthly Income After Taxes: How much a parent has to pay in support is based on each parent’s monthly income after taxes and alimony payments.
  4. Additional Expenses for Raising a Child: If the child has a disability or another issue that can influence living expenses, these can be factored into the case.

How Much Will a Parent Have to Pay in Support?

In the state of Pennsylvania, child support is calculated by:

  1. Determining Each Parent’s Income: First, each parent’s monthly income needs to be determined. This includes salaries, hourly wages, rental incomes, investments, and any other forms of income. Each side should subtract the amount of taxes they will pay to get their monthly income.
    1. Example: Parent A nets $5,000 a month. Parent B nets $3,000 a month.
  2. Adjusting for Spousal Support/Alimony: If one parent is receiving alimony or spousal support, then that amount should be added to his/her monthly income. In addition, the parent who is paying alimony or spousal support should subtract those payments from his/her monthly income.
    1. Example: Parent A makes $5,000 a month but pays $500 in alimony. Parent A’s monthly income is $4,500 after alimony, while Parent B’s income is $3,500.
  3. Combining Both Incomes: Once you have the monthly incomes, add them together.
    1. Example: The combined monthly income is $8,000.
  4. Calculating How Much Each Parent Contributes: After you have the total monthly income for both parents, take each parent’s monthly income and divide it by the total income.
    1. Example: Parent A’s monthly contribution is $4,500/$8,000 or 56%. Parent B’s monthly contribution is $3,500/$8,000 or 44%.
  5. Reviewing the Child Support Schedule: Child support may be adjusted based on the number of children involved, according to the Pennsylvania Child Support Schedule. To determine the minimum amount of support, you should compare the number of children to the combined monthly income on the schedule.
    1. Example: There are two children involved in this case. For a combined monthly income of $8,000, basic child support is set at $1,859.
  6. Multiplying the Basic Child Support by the Contribution Percentage: If a parent is responsible for paying support, he should multiply his contribution percentage with the basic child support amount.
    1. Example: Parent A does not have physical custody and is responsible for paying child support. Support is calculated at 56% x $1,859 or $1,041.04.
    2. Example: Parent B does not have physical custody and is responsible for paying child support. Support is calculated at 44% x $1,859 or $817.96.
  7. Adjusting for Additional Expenses: If there are any additional expenses, each parent may be responsible for paying them based on his or her contribution percentage. This can include daycare, babysitting, or athletic fees.
    1. For Example: Both parents have to pay for daycare, which is $500 a month. Parent A would pay 56% x $500 or $280. Parent B would pay 44% x $500 or $220.

If you need assistance estimating child support, you can also calculate it online through the PA Child Support Program.

Can Child Support Be Adjusted?

A parent may be able to modify the amount of child support when he or she experiences a change in living situations. For example, if the supporting parent loses her job, experiences a sudden injury, or is going through a bankruptcy, her attorney may be able to petition for child support payments to be paused or lowered based on her new income.

However, the opposite is also true. If one parent receives a pay increase and is more capable of providing for a child, then payments may be adjusted on both sides. For example, if the custodial parent receives a promotion at work, then the amount of support she receives can be lowered. Or, if a non-custodial parent gets a new job that pays more, then she may have to pay more in support.

This process can be incredibly complicated and difficult to comprehend at first. At the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., we encourage you to sit down with a Montgomery County family law attorney to discuss all of your options if you have an issue paying or receiving child support. Our lead attorney has more than 25 years of experience guiding parents through family court and helping them get modifications on support. We can sit down with you in a free consultation and answer your questions. Call the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., at (610) 645-0100.

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