When it comes to a divorce, few things are as impactful or as emotionally charged as determining who will have custody of the children. Along with custody, child support orders are often misunderstood and the source of anger, sadness, and more.

Not only does Pennsylvania law govern child support, but federal law does as well. The US has a federal guideline system in place for child support, but states create and enforce specific guidelines related to custody and support. Pennsylvania’s regulations follow overall federal parameters, and every 4 years the parameters are reviewed and reevaluated.

But what does that mean to those who are about to pay child support? There are a few basic things to keep in mind here.

  • First, understand that income shares are used in Pennsylvania to determine the basic overall child support obligation. This means that the total household income is determined and then applied to a child support table. This calculates the amount of support that will likely be owed each month.
  • Other factors may have an impact as well, including things like work related child care expenses, healthcare expenses, and more.

While it can seem like an ironclad, set-in-stone rule, the fact is that child support amounts can change over time. Essentially, it must be shown that there is a reason for a child support modification to be issued. These can include a few different things including:

  • A change in the child support obligation guidelines used by the state
  • A change in child care or healthcare costs
  • A change in the income levels or income sources of a parent
  • Custody changes
  • Emancipation of the child

In short, it must be a serious change within the life of parents or children in order for the courts to issue an order to modify child support. If it’s shown that a modification is needed, the same basic tables and guidelines used to determine initial support amounts will be used, bearing the new information or situations in mind.

Child support isn’t issued as a punishment to a noncustodial parent, and despite the friction and emotions it can sometimes trigger the reality is that it’s ordered as a way to help promote the best interests of the child. Understanding the basics is a good idea, and talking to a lawyer will be one of the best ways to make sure you have a clear understanding of child support and what it will mean to you.