Can the Court Deviate from the Child Support Guidelines?

Can the Court Deviate from the Child Support Guidelines?

The court may deviate from the support guidelines when determining a child support obligation, but is required to state why in writing or on the record, the amount and the reasons for and findings of fact justifying the amount of deviation. Deviation doesn’t always mean lower. Reasons include…

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What Can I Do If My Child's Mother/Father Talks About Me To My Child?

What Can I Do If My Child's Mother/Father Talks About Me To My Child?

Disparagement. This is something that unfortunately takes place in many custody cases. Talking poorly about your child's other parent in front of them or to them can be harmful to the child and detrimental to their relationship with that other parent.  It can also lead to parental alienation and the court does not take it lightly. If you are on the other side it can frustrating, depressing, and infuriating.  Read on for things you can do to deal with this.

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What happens to a custody case if the other party has been charged with a crime?

What happens to a custody case if the other party has been charged with a crime?

If a party has pending criminal charges, the court must consider whether that party poses a risk of physical, emotional, or psychological harm to the child.  There are certain crimes, often referred to as “enumerated offenses” because they are specifically enumerated in the statute, that the court will review to determine whether a party poses such a risk.

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Support of Adult Children

Support of Adult Children

Is a parent responsible for the support of their adult children?  Generally, parents are responsible for the support of a child until the child reaches the age of majority (18) or they graduate from high school, whichever event occurs later.  The right to support may actually exist beyond majority where the child is physical or mentally challenged or unable to support themselves. 23 PA.C.S. Section 4321(3). 

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A New Bill Seeks to Change the Way Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente lite is Determined.

A New Bill Seeks to Change the Way Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente lite is Determined.

House Bill No. 1250 stands to change the way that spousal support and alimony pendente lite (APL) is determined in Pennsylvania.  Instead of using the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines to determine the amount of support subject to certain deviations, House Bill 1250 will focus on the "basic needs" of the petitioning spouse.

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The Wait Time for a Divorce Just Got Shorter.

How long do you have to wait for a divorce?  This question varies based upon the type of divorce that you are seeking.  However, the wait time for an irretrievable breakdown, no-fault divorce, also known as a Section 3301 D divorce, just got shorter.  In October, Gov. Tom Wolfe signed a bill that reduced the amount of time the parties have to be separated to just one year, instead of two years.  

Where the parties have lived separate and apart for at least ONE year and one spouse files a complaint and affidavit stating that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court may grant a divorce.  This is for all separations that begin after December 3, 2016.  All separations beginning before that date will continue to follow the two year rule.

Aside from reducing the amount of time a party had to wait to divorce from the uncooperative spouse, this can also affect spousal and alimony pende lite payments.  Before, the non-paying spouse could almost force the paying spouse to wait two years for a divorce and continue to receive payments.  This time is cut down to half.  Of course child support payments could persist.  

Separate and apart does not necessarily mean living separately, though that is an easy way of showing the parties have separated.  There are defenses to spousal support and alimony pende lite payments.  There are other types of divorces, such as fault or mutual consent.  If you would like more information or wish to discuss your case, please contact us for a consultation. 



Will losing or quitting my job affect the amount of my child support payments?


What happens to court-ordered child support obligations if you quit or lose your job?

Changes in income can happen.  The State understands that there may be fluctuations in income and have crafted rules to address those fluctuations.  Generally, the court looks at whether the changes were voluntary or involuntary.  Nothing happens automatically and you should look to the rules as to how to request a change in your support obligations.   

In cases of voluntary reductions of income, there will generally be no adjustment to the support obligation.  Examples of voluntary reductions of income include:

  1. Assuming a lower paying job
  2. Quits a job
  3. Leaves employment
  4. Changes occupation or employment status to pursue an education
  5. Fired for cause.

However, there are times when fluctuations in income are involuntary.  Adjustments in the support obligation can be made for involuntary reductions that result in substantial continuing involuntary decreases in income for some of these reasons:

  1. Illness;
  2. Lay-off;
  3. Termination; 
  4. Job elimination; 
  5. Something else beyond the party’s control.

However, if the court finds that a person has voluntarily taken some action to cause the deduction in income, the court will not make an adjustment.  If the trier of fact determines that a party has willfully failed to obtain or maintainappropriate employment, the trier of fact may impute an income equal to the person’s earning capacity.  The court will look at the party’s age, education, training, health, work experience, earnings history and child care responsibilities (among others) to determine earning capacity.  

It’s important to know that the adjustment may not be made automatically.  Your order tells you when you must notify the courts of changes in your income.  Asking for a review, increase, or decrease of your support payments is a way to alert the court as to changes in either party’s income.  Speak to an attorney about the specific facts of your case and be sure to follow the rules in your county.

If you have questions about how a loss or decrease in income affects your child support payments, contact us today to schedule a free telephone consultation.

What is considered income for child support purposes?


What is considered income for child support purposes?

The first step in determining a support obligation is determining the parties' net income.  The court will take monthly gross income and then deduct certain expenses to arrive at each parties’ monthly net income.  The court will also consider other factors discussed below before determining the percentage of each parties’ support obligation.

What is considered income?  The court uses a six-month average of all of the party’s income.  Income includes, but is not limited to:

  1. wages, salaries, bonuses, fees and commissions;
  2. net income from business or dealings in property;
  3. interest, rents, royalties, and dividends;
  4. pensions and all forms of retirement;
  5. income from an interest in an estate or trust;
  6. Social Security disability benefits, Social Security retirement benefits, temporary and permanent disability benefits, workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation;
  7. alimony (in some circumstances); and
  8. other entitlements to money or lump sum awards, without regard to source, including lottery winnings, income tax refunds, insurance compensation or settlements; awards and verdicts; and any form of payment due to and collectible by an individual regardless of source.

There are certain exceptions or qualifications to be taken into consideration with the above list.  Here are a few:

  1. Seasonal Employment. For example, if one person’s job is seasonal, the court will use the year average and not the six month average.  In this situation, it is important to show a year’s worth of earnings to make sure that the gross income is not artificially low or high.  
  2. Social Security Disability benefits.  There are two types of Social Security disability benefits: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) andSocial Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI).  Supplemental Security Income (and public assistance benefits, for that matter) are not considered income.    
  3. Imputed Income.  If an individual voluntary quits their job or refuses to work, the decision maker may compute an earning capacity to that individual.

What is deducted from income?

  1. federal, state, and local income taxes;
  2. unemployment compensation taxes and local services taxes;
  3. Social Security, Medicare and Self Employment taxes (FICA) and non-voluntary retirement payments;
  4. mandatory union dues; and
  5. alimony paid to the other party.

Once the court has arrived at the parties’ net monthly income as determined in 231 PA 1910.16-2, the court may also allocate other expenses such as childcare, medical insurance premiums, and other unreimbursed medical expenses between the parties.  The court will consider other factors including the amount of custody shared between the parties and each party’s other support obligations to dependent children.  The support guidelines will then be applied to determine each parties’ obligation.  

As noted above, there are several exceptions and qualifications to many of the income resources and deduction rules. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss the unique facts of your case.  

Resources: PA 1910.16-2      




When do child support payments end?

When do child support payments end?  Do I have to do anything once my child turns 18 to stop the payments?

Technically support orders do not terminate automatically and a person paying child support was required to file a petition to terminate a child support order once the child is emancipated.  Subdivision (e) of Rule 1910.19 was implemented to prevent overpayments and to give parties notice.  Now, within the six months before the child turns 18, the court will issue an emancipation inquiry and notice to the obligee and a copy to the obligor asking certain questions to see whether the order shall remain in effect after the child turns 18 or graduates from high school (whichever is later). If there is no response after 30 days, the domestic relations section can administratively modify or terminate an order.

If you are receiving child support, you should complete and return the inquiry especially if there is a reason that the child should continue to receive support beyond age 18 or graduating high school.  If you do not return the notice, the domestic relations section may modify or terminate the order without further proceedings.  If there are other children on the court order, there may be a conference.

Three reasons why child support may continue even after the child reaches 18:

  1. The child has special needs.
  2. There is an agreement between the parties that requires support beyond age 18 or after the child has graduated from high school.
  3. There are arrears.

Arrears.  If the person paying child support owes arrears, the arrears continue to accrue through the date of the termination.  The domestic relations section may continue to have child support deducted in the amount of the original order to cover the arrears.  In this situation, the arrears will be paid off faster.

If you object to paying support for your child beyond age 18 or their graduation from high school, you may request a hearing.

If you have questions about child support, contact us for a free telephone consultation.  You may also consult Pennsylvania Rule 1910.19.


Which parent is responsible for the cost of transportation when they share custody?

Photo by Noel Hendrickson/Photodisc / Getty Images

A custody agreement will create the need for transportation.  At times, the transportation may become significant in terms of time and money.  While there are no set rules for determining who bears the burden of the cost of transportation, a court may find that the parent moving away and creating the need for travel costs may be responsible for costs.  The courts will consider the financial ability of each party to incur the costs. Please also be aware of that Pennsylvania courts have found that where one parent is responsible for transportation costs in order to exercise their partial custody, they may be entitled to a reduction in child support to cover the cost of transportation.

In addition to costs, parents also want to know whose responsibility it is to transport between the parents.  This designation is not always considered, but can cause unnecessary headaches if not defined clearly.  Even if the parties are amicable, it is a good idea to establish who transports where and when, especially if there is considerable distance between the parents.

Will the courts keep siblings together?

In determining which parent will get custody, will the courts give greater weight to keeping siblings together?  What about half-siblings?

Photo by mocker_bat/iStock / Getty Images

The main focus of the court is to determine the best interest of the child.  Whether the best of interest of the child is to be with their siblings primarily is to be determined.  In all cases, the courts use the 16 factors to determine what is in the best interest of the child or children.  The courts understand that the relationship a child shares with their siblings is an important one that can play a large role in their development.  As such, one of the factors the courts consider is which party is likely to keep siblings together.  The courts will also consider the requests of the child, depending on their age and reasoning.  This is includes if the child is requesting to live apart from their siblings.  

In Philadelphia, the courts have looked at a compelling reason standard.  This means that the courts will usually look toward keeping the child with their siblings unless there is a compelling reason not to do so.  However, if there is a substantial custody arrangement that can still satisfy the goal of significant relationship between the children, the courts will allow the separation of the siblings. These principals can also be applied to half siblings.

The Types of Custody in Pennsylvania

The Types of Custody in Pennsylvania

Custody falls into two categories in Pennsylvania: physical and legal.  Physical custody is the actual possession and control of a child.  Legal custody is the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.  Pennsylvania family courts may award one or more of the following types of custody.

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