Raising a child can be expensive, whether parents were never married or during or after a divorce. With childcare comes costs, such as daycare, pediatrics, additional food, baby care products, and a number of other expenses. Child support is a payment made to a caretaker of a child to help curb these costs. A majority of the time, child support is paid to the custodial parent by the parent who spends less time with the child. Child support payments will typically continue until the child either turns 18 and is legally recognized as an adult, or is emancipated in some way. In some circumstances, however, child support may continue past this age if support is needed for college , or if the child is disabled in any way.
Child Support Claims
Child support claims in PA have a number of basic guidelines that break down who is responsible for child support, as well as who can file. In Pennsylvania, it is normally the case that a primary custodial parent will make the request for child support, and the other parent who sees the child less frequently will normally pay it. However, child support is not always limited to just the parents. So long as a caregiver for the child needs support, they may at least make a request. This is possible even without a custody order in place for the caregiver. Child support, though often associated and filed with custody, is not directly linked to it. In addition to this, child support can also be renegotiated and modified similarly to a custody agreement.
Determining Child Support Amounts
There are a number of factors that affect how much a child support payment will be. Pennsylvania has a measurement system used by the courts to make a close estimate of what the most appropriate amount for support would be. The system takes into account the combined income of both parents, and how many children the family has. Although this provides a rough estimate of where to begin, every situation is different, so a family court judge may take certain other factors into consideration. These factors include:
- Any other household income: If there is additional income for a household, such as a second job, a rental property, or other forms of income, it will be considered in a child support agreement.
- The age of the child: A child's age plays an important role in determining how much support is necessary. For instance, a child that is old enough to have a part time job for their own spending money may not receive as much support as an infant whose every need, such as diapers and formula, must be provided for.
- Additional support obligations: If a parent is receiving or providing spousal support in addition to child support for example, the court will also take this into consideration. Also for example, if a parent is providing support to another parent for their other child or children, this will also be taken into consideration by the court.
- Assets and liabilities of parents: Assets and liabilities include things such as real property ownership, ownership of a car, and any debts a parent has. These all play a part in how much a parent can dedicate to care of a child, so the court will consider these factors.
- The child's standard of living: If a child's standard of living will be severely impacted by a divorce or lack of child support, the court may consider this factor.
- Any unusual needs for the child: Children that have unusual needs such as medical conditions, mental health conditions, or other needs are likely to have this considered by the court, especially if the child's health insurance does not cover these needs.
Although the court can consider these above factors, they may also likely hear out additional factors as necessary for extenuating circumstances. There may also be certain factors that are considered strictly by the county that the support case is being filed in. Regardless of what is being considered, for all matters related to a child, including child support, the final standard of decision-making rests on what the court deems to be in the best interest of the child.
Changing A Child Support Order
Once a child support order is finalized by the court, it must be fulfilled until the time of termination. However, at times, the court may be petitioned by either party to change the child support order. This is known as modification. Requests for modification can be done in court and with the help of an attorney. Modification will typically occur when a drastic change occurs in a parent's life. This can mean losing a job, moving away, or having another child. Any of these circumstances may constitute a review of the support agreement. When the court goes to review a modification of an established child support agreement, they will consider all of the above factors, as well as what circumstances have changed.
Management of child support is done through the statewide electronic system, PACSES. PACSES stands for Pennsylvania Automated Child Support Enforcement System. The system is used for collecting and distributing child support payments across the state for the ease and convenience of both parties. Parties with child support agreements log in to the system and either receive or disburse their payments as they are due. Once a support order is finalized, both parties will be able to register and log into the site regularly.
When you are working through Family Law proceedings, the overall process can be both confusing and unforgiving to the average person. Working with an experienced Family Law attorney can greatly affect the overall outcome of your case. If you or a loved one is engaged in matters of Family Law in Pennsylvania, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.