When spouses separate, the support of their children is considered a “priority obligation” under the law; if necessary, parents are expected to adjust their other expenditures in order to meet a child support obligation. As a parent, you will want to ensure that the amount of child support paid meets the needs of your children while remaining fair to both spouses. The number one role of child support is to ensure that the child’s needs are meet and to maintain a standard of living for the child as if the marriage were still intact.
A parent’s obligation to support his or her children is nearly absolute, and parents cannot bargain away their duty of child support. Typically, the parent with the majority of custody time, as defined by overnight custody, will receive child support from the other parent. However, in rare cases, if there is a large disparity in incomes, the custodial parent might have to pay support to the other parent.
Typically, parents must pay child support until the child is 18, but there are some exceptions. A court could order parents to support a disabled child for a longer time.
Child support payment amounts are determined by the Pennsylvania child support guidelines. The guidelines are based primarily on the number of children who need support and the income of both parents. There is some flexibility within these parameters. Although a court presumes that the number given by the guidelines is the appropriate amount of child support, a judge could deviate from the guidelines for the following reasons:
- the child’s age
- the relative assets and liabilities of the parents
- medical expenses not covered by insurance
- other support obligations
- other household income
- unusual needs and unusual fixed obligations
- standard of living
- factors which have the best interests of the child in mind
While these factors may support an adjustment up or down to the payment amount, there are still other expenses that impact support payments. For example, parents remain responsible for the cost of childcare or private school. Additionally, the child’s health insurance is another expense that one or both of the parents must pay.
For child support calculation purposes, gross income generally includes:
- Pensions and Retirement Plans
- Veteran Benefits
- Interest on Investments
- Rents and Net Gains from Business/Dealings in Property
Even without employment, chances are a parent still has income in the form of social security benefits or unemployment compensation.
Child support issues often cause ill will and friction between separated parents. However, with an experienced and balanced approach, child support matters can often be resolved by agreement without extensive litigation. The key is to know the difference between potentially complex support cases and those where settlement is appropriate. You may rely on our firm to make this determination and ensure that your children receive the fair amount of support they deserve.
Wilder Mahood McKinley & Oglesby provides seasoned representation in child support matters. For more information, contact us online or call our office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at 412-261-4040.