New Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines for 2006

Employers and employees alike need to deal with Pennsylvania’s child support laws on a daily basis. Many employees must pay support, and their employers must comply with payroll garnishment orders and requests for wage information from the county Domestic Relations offices. Therefore, it is important for many Pennsylvanians that the Supreme Court has issued an update to the statewide support guidelines. Both Pennsylvania and Federal law require a review of the support guidelines every four years to ensure that the most recent economic data is used to calculate child rearing costs.

On September 27, 2005, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court amended the Support Guidelines, effective January 27, 2006. There are a number of important changes to the guidelines which will affect most, if not all, child support orders in Pennsylvania. This article will note some of the highlights.

The basic structure of the guidelines has not changed, in that the guidelines still attempt to allocate to the child or children of two parents the same amount of money that would have been spent on behalf of the child or children had the parents been living together. These calculations, however, have changed significantly in that the formulas now allow for calculations of support for up to six children and for family net incomes of up to $20,000.00 per month. While there are many variables such as health insurance contributions, the number of overnights the non-custodial parent has with the child or children, unusually high mortgage payments, and other extraordinary expenses, to name a few, the rule of thumb is that the support obligations of employees who are paying support will generally increase if the two parties’ combined monthly net income is below $3,500.00 per month, and will decrease if the two parties’ combined monthly net income is greater than $3,500.00 per month. Both obligors and obligees should keep in mind, though, that no changes to existing support orders are automatic, and a petition must be filed before a support order can be modified.

The guidelines have increased the basic amount which low-income support obligors may keep for themselves in order to meet their own basic needs under Federal poverty standards. That amount, now called the “Self-Support Reserve,” increased from $550.00 per month to $748.00 per month.

The new guidelines have also made it clear that the cost for child care expenses incurred by the party who does not have primary custody of the child may be apportioned between the parties.

Clarifying existing law, the new Pennsylvania support guidelines instruct that if a party voluntarily quits a job, leaves employment, changes occupations, or changes employment status to pursue an education, there generally will be no effect on the support calculations. However, substantial continuing involuntary decreases in income, such as the result of illness, layoff, termination, or job elimination, may provide the basis for an adjustment to the support obligation. The new guidelines, like the old guidelines, also have significant implications for the tax consequences of spousal support orders, as well as implications for the payment and allocation of unreimbursed medical expenses for payee spouses and children.

In short, if you or one of your employees either pays or receives support pursuant to a garnishment order, be aware that over the next few months there is a great potential for changes to that order. Support payors and payees would be wise to meet with their family law attorneys to review their existing orders, so that the effects of the new Pennsylvania support guidelines can be weighed.

If you require legal representation for an child support or family law matter, the attorneys of Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C. have the experience to represent you through court or arbitration. Click here now to contact us and to schedule an appointment. We will be happy to advise you about your rights under Pennsylvania law.

Related Articles