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Child Support FAQ

Let’s assume that in Pennsylvania a spouse moves out of a marital residence, leaving the other partner with the children born of the marriage. The parties have equal incomes. The spouse who left the marital residence moved into an apartment across town. Can the spouse who is living with the two children file for child support?

Yes. The complaint would be filed in the local Domestic Relations Office. In Westmoreland County, this office is located in the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

What will happen once that complaint is filed?

Domestic Relations will set up a conference in its office. Both parties will be court-ordered to appear before a conference officer. Each party will be required to bring documentation to show proof of income such as pay stubs and the last federal tax return filed.

Once this information is presented, how will the child support be determined?

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has enacted statewide rules for the governance of all support matters. Child support is determined pursuant to support guidelines, which are based upon income shares. Every four years, these guidelines are reviewed and revised. The last revision took place on Aug. 3, 2017. Once each party presents its documentation, the conference officer will make a determination as to each party’s net income. Once the net incomes are calculated, the conference officer will then add the parties’ net income together, go to the chart in the guidelines and find the monthly support amount needed to raise that child. The party living outside the residence will then pay his or her proportional share of the amount shown in the chart. That party’s proportional share is determined by dividing his or her net income by the total combined income of both parties.

Do the support guidelines address child care in Pennsylvania?

Yes. In addition to the monthly child support, the party living outside the marital residence will be responsible for paying the same proportional share of the parties’ total combined income toward reasonable child care expenses. Under recently revised guidelines, if the party living outside the marital residence has child care expenses while the children spend time with them, that party may also offset their child care expenses with those of the party filing the complaint. The child care expenses will be reduced by any amount of federal child tax credit available to the eligible parent, whether or not that parent actually claims the credit.

Are there any other items that could be included on a child support order?

Yes. Health insurance, medical expenses not reimbursed, private school and tuition, and mortgage payment on the marital residence may also be included in a child support order. If a child support order is entered, the party who has the order will be responsible for the first $250 of unreimbursed medical costs not covered by health insurance for each child, each year. After the first $250 is exhausted, any amounts still owing on unreimbursed medical bills will once again be split in proportion to the parties’ net incomes. A person who pays for health insurance will generally be entitled to a credit off of the child support order. An excessively high mortgage payment on the marital residence may warrant an amount to be added on the child support order. An excessively high mortgage is when the party residing in the marital residence with the children has a payment that exceeds 25 percent of that person’s income, including wages and all support paid.

What if the party paying support has other children?

The guidelines treat all children equally. When there are children to multiple families, each family’s child support obligation must be determined. If the total child support obligations exceed 50 percent of the responsible party’s income, each order will be reduced so that no more than 50 percent is ordered.

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