If you’re getting a divorce in Pennsylvania and you have minor children with your spouse, you’re going to want to learn about child support. When a parent pays child support, he or she makes monthly payments to the other parent to cover the costs of raising ther children.
A paying parent cannot insist that the receiving parent specifically spends the money on the children’s groceries, clothing, or extra-curricular activities, because that’s not how it works. Naturally, the custodial parent has to pay for these things, so it’s assumed that all child support payments help cover the children’s living expenses.
In Pennsylvania, parents typically pay child support until the child turns 18, with exceptions. If a child is emancipated, the payments can be cut short, or if the child doesn’t graduate high school until after their 19th birthday, or if the child is disabled, the noncustodial parent can be ordered to pay child support for a longer period of time.
How Much is Child Support?
How much does a noncustodial parent have to pay? The amount of child support depends on the Pennsylvania child support guidelines. If you look at the guidelines, you’ll see that they’re based on the number of children and the combined income from both parents in “intact families.”
Under the child support guidelines, there is flexibility. The court will take into account the noncustodial parent’s ability to pay support, the children’s individual needs, and the family’s unique custody arrangements.
Decreasing and Increasing Child Support
Even though the guidelines are an important reference tool, there are times when a judge deems it necessary to deviate from the guidelines. In other words, a judge may decide to reduce or increase child support for any of the following reasons:
- Other child support obligations
- The children’s age
- Each parent’s income, assets, and liabilities
- The children’s uninsured medical expenses
- The standard of living
- The best interests of the children
- Any unusual needs
- Other household income
Any of the above factors may increase or decrease the child support obligation accordingly. If you are the paying parent, please understand that once the court orders you to pay a certain amount of support, you must continue making the payments until the court changes or terminates it.
If you fail to pay child support, you can be held in contempt of court, punishable by probation, up to a $1,000 fine, and possibly jail time.