A parent’s obligation to pay support for his or her children is virtually absolute, to pay according to both parents’ respective abilities, income and assets. Pennsylvania has developed elaborate guidelines, published by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Rules of Civil Procedure, which can be accessed online. In a handful of relatively rare cases, it is fairly simple to calculate support in the case where each of two parents has a single employer, and each has a single paycheck which reflects year-to-date deductions for taxes and medical insurance premium payments. However, other complicating considerations often arise such as daycare expense, summer camp, expensive medical insurance coverage (or the lack of coverage), 50-50 shared custody, and unusually high mortgage payments.
Child Support guidelines are not set in stone
The Pennsylvania support guidelines are followed closely by the staff at the Domestic Relations Office for the County of Lancaster, and although deviations from the base guideline support calculations are possible, the Lancaster County Domestic Relations Office representatives generally stick closely to the black letter of the guidelines. Unfortunately, at times the well-intended DRO conference officers make mistakes in calculating child support, and an appeal to the Family Court is necessary.
Problems arise where one or both of the parents of the children are self employed, and/or are involved with occupations which produce income largely in the form of cash (bartenders, waiters, waitresses, musicians, food stand operators, etc.).
Child support payments are considered to be the children’s money, meaning that the parents cannot bargain or negotiate away the right of the children to receive support. An agreement by one parent simply not to bother with any custody arrangements with the children, in exchange for an agreement by the other parent not to require child support will not be enforced by the courts of the State of Pennsylvania. It is considered to be against public policy.
A support order is not meant to last forever. It may be changed if there is a substantial change in circumstances on the part of either party. For example, if the income of one parent increases or decreases substantially, or if the children’s expenses dramatically go up, a support order can be changed by filing a Petition to modify it.
Get help from a lawyer
Child support is serious business. If the paying spouse is found to have willfully (deliberately) disobeyed a support order, serious penalties may be imposed, such as the loss of a driver’s license, interception of Federal Tax refunds, and even imprisonment. The lawyers at Reese, Samley, Wagenseller, Mecum & Longer, P.C. have many decades of experience dealing with the support guidelines and the Domestic Relations Office. We will be happy to guide you through this confusing and complex system.