Child & Spousal Support Attorney West Chester, PA

Child & Spousal Support A…

Under Pennsylvania law, both parents are responsible for supporting their children in proportion to each parent’s respective income. Your financial circumstances will help determine your support obligations. If you have children who are under the age of 18 or have not yet graduated from high school (whichever event occurs later), you may be entitled to child support in Pennsylvania. Depending on your circumstances, you may also be entitled to financial support for yourself. An “economically dependent” spouse may be awarded either spousal support or alimony pendente lite (also known as APL).

Child support, spousal support and/or Alimony Pendente Lite are important issues in a divorce matter; it is important that you are well informed about these issues and receive the right advice before seeking support. Contact Wesley W. Legg to discuss your support issues in detail. Every case is unique; Wesley is ready to assist you with your particular case.

How are Child Support, Spousal Support, and Alimony Pendente Lite awards calculated in Pennsylvania?

Child support, spousal support, and APL are generally calculated based based on Pennsylvania Support Guidelines located in Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 1910.16-3. These guidelines are based on the net income of each party. This means after taxes. However, you have to start with the gross income of the parties to ascertain the net income.

Under Pa.R.C.P 1910.16.2(c)(1), net income is defined as gross income minus federal, state and local taxes; minus unemployment compensation taxes and Local Services Taxes (LST); minus F.I.C.A. payments (Social Security, Medicare and Self-Employment Taxes) and non-voluntary retirement payments; minus mandatory union dues; and minus alimony paid to the other party.

Voluntary contributions to your company’s retirement plan or union are not deducted from net income. Thus, just because you have contributed 10% of your pay to your 401(k) for retirement, the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines do not deduct this amount from your net pay. The State Legislature and the courts have placed a priority on child support, spousal support and/or an APL obligation rather than your retirement. Once the proper adjustments to, and deductions from, income are made, and the parties’ respective net incomes are determined, the Support Guidelines will determine the amount of support. This is a complex calculation, and one that is difficult to get right without professional help.

Being organized with your financial information is paramount. Gathering your paystubs, W-2s (if applicable); daycare payments, medical payments (usually found on paystub). If you are self-employed - it is even more important to be organized. Tax returns, profit and loss statements; bank statements; receipts; etc. will be required to show your income. It should be noted, especially in self-employed cases - your taxable income doesn't necessarily equate to net income as defined by statute.

January 2022 Support Guideline Changes - A MUST READ

2022 will usher in major changes to the Pennsylvania support guidelines. As of January 1, 2022, new statewide child support guidelines go into effect. The Pennsylvania courts do not automatically grant child support increases when the guidelines are updated. This means a parent must file a petition to modify child support and obtain a new child support order. You can file online for a modification at the Pennsylvania Child Support Website

The 2022 child support child support increases are modest at most income levels, though the increase is not the same at all income levels. For parents whose combined net monthly income is between $4,000 and $10,000, there is a 10% increase for one child and less than a 15% change for more than one child. For parents whose combined net monthly income is between $10,000 and $15,000, there is a 15% change for one child and a 23% change for more than one child. The largest percentage change from the current guidelines is for parents whose combined net monthly income is between $20,300 and $22,600, where is increase is between 22% and 24%. For families whose combined net monthly incomes exceed $30,000 the increase from the current child goes up to more than 25%, but a much smaller increase for families with more than one child.

Here are some examples:

Combined Monthly Net Income of Parties
$10,000 One Child Under the Order Two Children Under the Order
New Guidelines (1/22) $1,559 $2,280
Old Guidelines (1/19) $1,433 $2,044
New Guidelines (1/22) $2,125 $3,142
Old Guidelines (1/19) $1,834 $2,586
New Guidelines (1/22) $2,643 $3,890
Old Guidelines (1/19) $2,172 $3,052
New Guidelines (1/22) $3,134 $4,202
Old Guidelines (1/19) $2,508 $3,492
New Guidelines (1/22) $3,608* $4,250*
Old Guidelines (1/19) $2,839* $3,902*
New Guidelines (1/22) $3,808* $4,450*
Old Guidelines (1/19) $3,269* $4,492*

Plus a Hanrahan analysis required.

In the case of Hanrahan v. Bakker, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a historic decision which reversed a trend that was victimizing wealthy parents who were required to pay child support. Because of a series of conflicting cases, statutes, and rules, child support in Pennsylvania for high income parents became not based on the needs of the children, but rather on an arbitrary formula. In Hanrahan, payor-father, wanted to pay a fair and reasonable child support order on behalf of his children. The Supreme Court came out with its decision on June 19, 2018. The decision was unanimous. The Supreme Court changed the law and the policy of taking a percentage from the payor’s high income and reverted to the reasonable needs standard.

The new guidelines of January 2022 attempt to reflect actual expenses of an intact family living in a single household at the various combined monthly net incomes (as shown above) and the number of children with no shared custody adjustment. The child support guidelines are broken into two (2) components.

One (1) component is a chart, and the second (2) component is a three-step process.

The chart applies to families that have a combined monthly net income up to $30,000. The rationale for the the chart stopping at $30,000 combined monthly net income is that there is no reliable economic data regarding the reasonable needs of children in households where the combined monthly net income exceeds $30,000.

Families who have a combined monthly net income in excess of $30,000 per month are considered high-income cases and have child support calculated based on the three-step process set forth in the support guidelines and as set forth in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court case of Hanrahan v. Bakker, 186 A.3d 958 (Pa. 2018). The primary issue of high-income child support cases is the mandate of courts to conduct a reasonable needs analysis in calculating high-income child support.

To the extent that a petition for modification is filed, the petitioner is required to demonstrate proper grounds for modification. A change in the guidelines is sufficient grounds for a support modification if the new guidelines would result in a material change in child support. Simultaneously, and regardless of who brought the petition to modify, the court may consider other changes, such as increases or decreases in the parties’ incomes, medical insurance premiums, child care costs or extracurricular activities of the child.

The Pennsylvania child support guidelines are routinely updated every four (4) years to reflect changes in the cost of living. The guidelines are based upon a statistical model that measures the portion of household income that intact families spend on their children, with the idea that divorced, separated and unmarried parents should spend the same amount on their child(ren). The statistical model is updated with new survey data every few years, and then the child support guidelines are updated.

At the Law Office of Wesley W. Legg, Esquire, he is equipped with SupportCalc Software that can assist in predetermining your obligation before your conference or hearing. If you have specific questions about child support, spousal support, Alimony Pendente Lite (APL), and alimony following divorce, the Law Office Wesley W. Legg can assist you. To set up your initial consultation, please call (484) 401-7079. Wesley W. Legg represents clients living in Chester County, Montgomery County, and Delaware County.

Attorneys:  Wesley W. Legg