Child Support

  1. What is Support? Both parents have a legal duty to support their child or children according to their earnings or earning capacity. Generally, the basic child support payments are for the ordinary expenses of food, shelter, clothing, and usual and customary expenses. In a given appropriate case, other expenses which are usual and reasonable may be Ordered to be paid, like private school tuition, summer camp, sports or music lessons, therapies, and other expenses not contemplated within the basic support obligations.
  2. How is a Support Order Determined? When parents separate (or do not live together), and one party files for child support against the other parent, a court is required to enter an order for support (almost always) against the parent with less or equal physical custody. Support orders are entered either by agreement or the decision will be made by a Support Master or a Judge.
  3. How is the Amount of Support Determined? Guidelines. The Offices of Domestic Relations and the Courts in Pennsylvania follow the statutory support guidelines. A matrix shows what the support should be for a certain number of children, based on the total net monthly income of both parties. The support obligation is then calculated based on the percentage that the obligor’s (the one paying support) income bears to the entire income of both.
  4. How is income defined? Income takes many forms. This may include any form of payment due to and collectible by an individual regardless of the source. The sources of income could be:
    • a. Net Income: Gross income minus taxes and other required deductions;
    • b. Bonuses;
    • c. Fees;
    • d. Commissions;
    • e. Income from a Business
    • f. Income from the sale of property;
    • g. Interest;
    • h. Rents;
    • i. Royalties;
    • j. Dividends;
    • k. Annuities;
    • l. Income form life insurance/endowment contracts;
    • m. 401(k), IRA’s, Roth IRA’s, Pensions;
    • n. Military, Railroad, Employment, Social Security Benefits;
    • o. Distributions from Partnerships;
    • p. Income from an estate or trust;
    • q. Money paid to you by someone who owed you a debt;
    • r. Disability benefits: temporary and permanent;
    • s. Worker’s Compensation;
    • t. Unemployment compensation;
    • u. Money/Lump Sum Rewards (such as the lottery);
    • v. Income Tax Refunds;
    • w. Insurance Compensation/Settlements;
    • x. Legal Verdicts or Awards;
    • y. Any form of payment due and collectible by an individual regardless of source.
  5. What is usually contained in a Support Order? Basic child support; possibly private school tuition, summer camp expenses, lessons, therapy, and similar expenses, if reasonable and customary.
  6. Does this mean I have to pay for college if my child is over Age 18? Not in Pennsylvania. A parent is not obligated to pay for college, unless the parent has agreed to do so in a written agreement, or an agreement which has been put, by agreement, into a Court Order.
  7. What about Medical Insurance and Healthcare Costs? Usually, one parent is Ordered to provide health care coverage. Both parents contribute to the cost of this, usually, according to their respective net monthly incomes. If neither parent has health insurance available, the court may order one parent to obtain health insurance at a reasonable cost, and for the parents to share the cost on a pro rata basis according to income.
  8. What about the costs not covered by insurance? Usually, the uncovered, reasonable bills are shared according to a percentage basis set forth in the Court Order. However, they may be restrictions, such as, that the child must be taken to a participating provider within the network of the health insurance.
  9. Is payment of child support tax deductible? Generally, No.
  10. What happens if I don’t pay the support? Typically, an enforcement action will be filed against the non – paying parent, by the other parent or the Domestic Relations office. Beware….the Court is permitted to publish the names of delinquent payers, under certain circumstances, in newspapers of general or special circulation. Further, a non – paying parent can be sued for contempt and if found in contempt of the Support Order by the Court, then, after a hearing, going to jail can be Ordered.