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How does Pennsylvania determine child support?

In Pennsylvania, there are two basic factors that affect how much a parent must pay for child support. The first such factor is the net monthly incomes of both parents. The second factor is how many children are being supported.

According to the state child support guidelines, a child should be able to receive the same amount of parental income that he or she would have acquired if the parents resided together. Pennsylvania uses a model that is based on a variety of economic studies that show how much income households typically spend on children. These studies also indicate that the portion of household income is dependent on the amount of income and the number of children in the residence. The amount of support is based on marginal expenses for basic needs, including food, clothing and housing, as well as miscellaneous expenses and medical expenses.

Under Pennsylvania law, the amount required under child support guidelines is presumed to be the appropriate amount of an award for child support. However, the children's special needs and the obligations of each parent are also considered. A judge who decides to deviate from the child support guidelines must make a written finding regarding why a different award is required in the case and why the guidelines would not be appropriate. Additionally, the child support guidelines presume that the non-custodial parent will spend about 30 percent of time with the child. If he or she spends more time with the child, the amount of support obligation is reduced accordingly.

While the guidelines provide a general point of reference, each family's situation is unique. A family law attorney can provide more specific advice to a client based upon the particular circumstances.

Source: The Pennsylvania Code, "Rule 1910.16-1. Amount of Support. Support Guidelines.", September 08, 2014

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