Child support cases in Pennsylvania are governed by the Bureau of Child Support Enhancement, operating within the Department of Public Welfare. The BCSE offers a number of services to qualifying families, including locating the non-custodial parent, establishing paternity, establishing a court order, and helping out with matters related to these types of cases. Parents who need assistance or want to learn more about the available options often benefit from consulting a child support attorney.
Child Support in Pennsylvania
Child support is a court-ordered payment designed to help with the costs of raising a child. The support typically lasts until the child turns 18, but it may last longer if there are mental or physical conditions that require continued support. Parents can come to a mutual agreement and have the judge approve the support order. However, most cases are initiated by one of the parents filing an application for child support with the Domestic Relations Office.
Calculating Child Support
Once the parents are living separately, the primary custodial parent who has the child for more than half the overnights during a two-week period is entitled to collect child support. When the parents have agreed to shared custody and split time evenly, the parent who has the lower income is entitled to collect child support.
The support order may include monetary support for clothing, shelter, and food as well as support for child care expenses, basic education expenses, and health insurance. Extracurricular activities, visitation travel expenses, and extraordinary medical costs may also be incorporated into the support order. Even if a parent isn’t working, he or she can be ordered to pay child support. If the child isn’t in either parents’ care, both parents can still be ordered to pay child support.
Filing a Complaint and Gathering Documentation
Having a child support complaint filed with the Domestic Relations Office is the first step of initiating the process. Afterward, a Domestic Relations Office conference officer will be scheduled for your support conference. Each parent has the right to use legal representation and will be instructed to bring along important documents, including relevant tax returns, pay stubs, medical insurance cards, tuition expenses, day care costs, and documentation of child-related expenses.
Getting a Guideline Number at the Support Conference
With the documents provided at the conference, the DRO officer will collect information on income and expenses from both parties. The information is inputted into the system while you’re still there in the conference room. The computer system generates a guideline number for support from the income and expense data. Pennsylvania has published a child support guidelines table indicating how much the courts believe it would cost to support the number of children if the parties were still living together.
Calculating Support With the Guidelines Formula
Obtaining the monthly net income for each party is the first step of calculating the guideline amount. Net income doesn’t include withheld taxes or similar mandatory withholdings. The incomes are combined and used to look up the total support amount for the appropriate number of children provided on the PA Support Guidelines chart.
The corresponding amount is then allocated to the parents based on the proportion of income each earns in the equation. The amount of support allocated to each parent can increase or decrease based on the time spent with the children or changes to which expenses are being paid for. Often, calculating child support just comes down to putting numbers into the state’s formula.
Getting Legal Assistance With Child Support
However, bringing legal representation to the Domestic Relations Office can still be beneficial. Lawyers well-versed in divorce and family law understand which expenses qualify for an increase or reduction in support. Legal counsel also has experience with asking the right questions to uncover hidden income potentially being concealed by the other party.
Having a lawyer is also helpful for negotiating an arrangement or amount of child support that’s independent of the guidelines. If circumstances have changed, then a child support order can be changed for either party by asking the Domestic Relations Office to schedule a modification conference.
Hire a Lawyer From Our Office
If you want to learn more about child support, how to navigate the legal system, or which options are available to you, then contact our child support attorney today at the law office of Joanne Kleiner. Our Jenkintown family law office can be reached at (215) 886-1266.