If you and your spouse have decided to pursue a divorce and you have children, child custody and child support issues will probably be a central issue in your divorce. Child support matters can be emotional and complex, potentially leading to legal challenges and conflict on both sides. We recommend discussing your case with an attorney as soon as possible to protect yourself and your rights.
At Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace, we are dedicated to helping clients deal with challenging child support matters. We will carefully listen to your needs and goals and provide a strategy for pursuing the best outcome. We keep our clients informed of changes and value communication. We will protect your rights while negotiating the best divorce settlement. Contact Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace to schedule an initial consultation.
Pennsylvania Guidelines for Child Support
In Pennsylvania, parents need to pay child support until a child reaches 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens later. When a child has mental or physical disabilities, the parent paying may need to pay after the child turns 18. The amount of child support to which a child is entitled depends on the parents’ monthly after-tax incomes or earning capacities.
Which Parent Is Required to Pay Child Support?
In Pennsylvania, each parent is obligated to provide financial support for their child when they have parental rights. In most cases, the parents who don’t have custody, called the non-custodial parent, must pay child support. The parent with primary physical custody of the children will usually receive payments.
This may not be the case when parents share physical custody of their children. Pennsylvania family courts consider the child custody arrangement when they decide whether one parent is required to pay and how much they will have to pay.
How Is Child Support Calculated in Pennsylvania?
Determining the amount is somewhat complicated. The family court will consider multiple factors, including parents’ monthly incomes. In Pennsylvania, all of the following sources of income are considered income:
- Overtime pay
- Rental income
- Retirement income
- Social Security retirement or disability payments
- Unemployment compensation
- Workers’ compensation
- Income from an ownership interest in a business
- Entitlements to lump sum awards, such as lottery winnings
Accurately determining each parent’s income is an important step in the payment process. Unfortunately, a parent who wants to avoid paying may try to hide certain types of income to avoid paying support. For example, if a parent receives tips, they may try to avoid reporting them as income to decrease their overall income level.
The attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace will work with you to ensure that both parents’ incomes are fairly and accurately represented. Even if a person does not have an income but is capable of working, the parent will be assessed as having an earning capacity equivalent to what someone could earn, given their skills, education, and prior employment history.
The Pennsylvania Guidelines
Once the parent’s monthly net income has been determined, family courts will apply the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines to determine how much child support should be paid. These guidelines are formulas that consider the parents’ income and the number of children, along with other factors. Parents can also be required to pay a portion of additional child-rearing costs, such as:
- Medical coverage for the dependent spouse and/or children
- Medical expenses not covered by insurance
- Daycare costs that are incurred while the custodial parent is going to school or working
The attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan Gerace will investigate and establish the facts in your case to help you present the most persuasive case possible. We can also help you navigate the legal system, so you have a better understanding of Pennsylvania guidelines.
Modifying an Existing Child Support Arrangement in Pittsburgh
When you experience a substantial change in circumstances, such as a move, change in career, or marriage, you may need to modify your existing arrangement. Pennsylvania courts understand that circumstances change and offer parents a process to petition the court to modify their existing child support arrangement. However, modifying a current order is difficult, especially if the judge recently issued it. Working with an experienced attorney from the beginning of the process can help you pursue a fair child support order that will work for the foreseeable future. You may be able to successfully file a petition to modify the order for the following reasons in Pennsylvania:
- A non-custodial parent’s employment has changed
- A custodial parent may be abusing or neglecting a child
- A child may wish to spend more time with a non-custodial parent
- A non-custodial parent moves closer to another parent
- A parent relocates out of town or out of state
Enforcing Orders in Pittsburgh
Unfortunately, some parents avoid paying child support even after being ordered by the court. When a parent refuses to pay, they can be held in contempt and face significant sanctions, including jail time. They can also face a driver’s license suspension, professional license revocation, liens placed against bank accounts, and withholding tax refunds.
Similarly, when a parent’s income increases and they fail to report it, there may be a retroactive modification of the order to the date the income change occurred. This could result in underpayment of child support, and the parent entitled to support may have a right to initiate an enforcement action.
Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Child Support Attorney in Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh child support attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace have represented many parents pursuing a fair child support order. We welcome complex cases, including high-income cases, complicated tax issues, and hidden income cases. Contact Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your case with a skilled attorney.