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Child Support Lawyer in Pittsburgh

Who Pays Child Support?

Child support in Pennsylvania is based on various factors which are different from family to family. The most important factors often include the incomes (or earning capacities) of both parties, the custody situation, the number of children, childcare costs, private schooling and tax filing status. Both parents are expected to provide support for their children based on their individual earnings and capability. Child support can be owed even if the parties have shared (50/50) physical custody of the children.

Child support is most often “wage attached”, being deducted automatically from pay just like taxes. The support is then sent to Harrisburg which pays the recipient either through direct deposit or an “EPPI card, which is a debit card of sorts.

Child support is usually expected until the child turns 18 and graduates from high school. The supporting parent, however, may be required to continue providing payments if the adult child is incapable of self-support because of a physical or mental disability. Parents do not have to financially contribute to the child's college education unless the parents have obligated themselves within a contract.

Retroactivity for support usually goes back to the date of filing. So, most support cases start with “arrears”, which are usually paid off at 10% of the order. So, an order for $1,000 in support a month, would usually be paid at $1,100 per month until the arrears are satisfied.

If you need guidance with child support or want to know whether you may be required to pay support, call us today at (412) 563-5000.

How Is the Amount of Child Support Determined?

Child support is based on the “net” monthly income (or earning capacity) of the parties. To arrive at a net income, the court will most often deduct expected tax liabilities, union dues and mandatory retirement payments. The court will determine tax liability through its own system and not based upon your tax return. After all, your might owe money or receive a refund at tax time.

Guidelines as to how child support is determined are determined by rules promulgated by in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which are revised periodically. Support guidelines contain a formula for calculating proper amount of child support.

Many factors enter into the equation, including:

  • Parents' net monthly incomes
  • Parents' earning capacities
  • Number of children
  • Childcare expenses
  • Child custody situation

In addition, provision for health insurance and division of unreimbursed medical expenses is also made a part of the support order. Health insurance is not deducted dollar for dollar from the payor, but is factored into the equation.

The net monthly income is calculated from the gross monthly income from all sources. Child support rules were amended in 2010 which eliminated the cap on the guidelines formula. Our Pittsburgh family law attorneys can explain your rights as you determine child support and help ensure that you reach a plan suitable for your financial situation.

Child Support for Non-Custodial Parents

Non-custodial parents will need to contribute their proportionate share of the child's health insurance premiums and the un-reimbursed expenses that exceed a certain threshold.

The parent who does not have custody of the child or children may be responsible for a portion of special needs, such as:

  • Summer camp expenses
  • Tutoring
  • Private school tuition
  • Sports
  • Art lessons

Determining Expenses in Your Situation

Every family will have their own set of expenses based on their lifestyle. During a consultation, our firm can help you determine what child support expenses exist in your case. Child care expenses can have a major impact on the child support order. Obligations are added to the basic amount of child support. If one of the parents can demonstrate unusual needs or fixed obligations, the amount of child support can either be increased or reduced.

High income child support cases

High income child support cases can involve issues that are not present in other child support cases. Examples of such issues include valuing stock options, multiple mortgages, characterizing bonuses, and the differences between IRS rules and child support rules in the deduction of business expenses.

However, in most cases, “need” is not a factor in child support. Also, child support is not taxable income to the recipient or tax deductible to the payor. High income child support cases require legal expertise even more than lower income child support cases.

Payment of support

The state of Pennsylvania employs a computerized child support collection system, which is known as the Pennsylvania Automated Child Support Enforcement System (PACSES). Every child support order is enforced by wage attachment, except in situations where the payor is self-employed or the recipient agrees to waive the wage attachment.

In general, initial arrears are not subject to enforcement actions (though they can be taken by the IRS). However, falling behind on support can lead to enforcement actions. If enough unpaid support exists for child support, PACSES can then take enforcement action.

Some of these enforcement actions include:

  • Wage garnishment
  • Intercepting the payor's IRS refund
  • Suspending the payor's driver's license
  • Suspending a hunting / fishing license
  • Suspending a professional license

Can I Modify an Existing Child Support Order?

Parents can request a modification of a child support order when there is a material and substantial change in circumstances. Also, most counties provide for a modification request once the existing PASCES order is at least two years old. Each county in Pennsylvania has its own rules for how to deal with child support medications. Modification is retroactive to the date when you file a request for modification.

Health insurance

Most support orders require the existing health insurance holder to continue paying health insurance for the children. The health insurance payments are factored into the support equation but not applied dollar-for-dollar.

Health insurance generally includes health insurance, dental insurance and vision insurance. However, costs for counseling, therapy and the like are typically awarded on a case-by-case basis.

Also, unreimbursed medical expenses are typically divided between the parties proportionately to their income. You will want to talk to your attorney about how to obtain, or defend against, unreimbursed medical expenses from the other party. Some common issues with unreimbursed medical expenses include psychiatric expenses, expenses outside of a network and incorrectly documented expenses.

Intersection of child support and spousal support

A spouse may be entitled to receive, or obligated to pay, both spousal support and child support. When spousal support is present, a different formula is used then when child support alone is paid.

Sometimes, one party will be entitled to child support while the other party is entitled to spousal support. In those case, the obligations “offset”. For example, imagine that Wife owe child support to Husband of $2,500 per month, while Husband owed spousal support to Wife of $1,000 per month. In that case, Wife would generally just receive $1,500 per month ($2,500 - $1,000 = $1,500).

Earning capacity

A party has an “earning capacity” when they are legally determined to be capable of earning more than they are actually earning. In such cases, the earning capacity rather than the earnings are used in calculating support.

One common earning capacity issue arises when the payor quits a job or is fired for cause. In that case, the court will most often not lower the support obligation due to the job loss.

Another common example of an earning capacity issue arises when a party simply chooses not to work or chooses not to work fulltime.

Earning capacity is one the trickiest areas of family law and calls for an experienced, skilled and strategic attorney.

At Rosen Family Law Group, our Pittsburgh divorce lawyers have more than 25 years of experience helping clients like you. We know the laws and are prepared to serve you. Contact our child support attorneys today to receive child support help.

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