In calculating a child and spousal support obligation in Pennsylvania, if the joint net monthly incomes of the parties amounts to $30,000.00 or less, a support formula is used. This formula is called “Guidelines”.
The formula is based upon the net monthly incomes of both parties, which are calculated and added together, to arrive at the Monthly Income Available for Support. This figure is put into the Guidelines formula, together with the number of children the couple has, and a Total Support Figure for all of the children is calculated. Generally, the party who is the partial physical custodian (in the case where one parent is a primary physical custodian) pays the other parent a percentage of that Total Support Figure based upon the percentage of total monthly income the paying party earns. For example, let’s say the total net monthly income of the parties is $5,000.00 and the partial physical custodian’s income is $3,000.00 of that. In that case, the partial physical custodian has 60% of the total income; therefore, that party pays the other party 60% of the Total Support Figure. This figure is called Basic Support.
Note that if the parties have equal physical child custody, called Shared Physical Custody, the figure to be paid will most likely be different, but that is a subject for another Newsletter.
If both parties are W-2 employees and are working full-time, as a general proposition, the Basic Support number is not difficult to calculate. On the other hand, if a party is not working full-time, this figure may not be so easy to calculate. Pennsylvania is not an earnings state; rather it is an Earning Capacity State. This means that for purposes of calculating Support, parties must work to the capacity. Therefore, if a person works part-time, or not at all, but has the capacity of work full-time, the court might calculate a parties net monthly income based on that persons full-
time capacity rather than their part-time or no-time work schedule. Disability, such as where a person is receiving Social Security Disability, can be an exception to this rule.
The calculation of Basic Support is not the end of the inquiry, however, Apportionment of expenses such as payment for child care, day care, private school, summer camp, religious lessons, and many other items may also be considered by the Court in the appropriate case and a percentage of the cost of those items, based upon the percentage above (in the case above, 60%) may be assessed on the paying party (called the Obligor), in addition to the Basic Support number.
Spousal support, which is support for a dependent spouse, in addition to Basic Support may also be assessed.
These are issues which can be worked out in Court or in Mediation. In Mediation, the results are obtained in a more timely manner and at far less expense, than two parties fighting it out in a Courtroom. Once agreed to, a properly drafted Support Order, filed with the Court, has the same weight and meaning as an Order entered after a Support Trial.
If you have any questions about Child and Spousal Support in Pennsylvania, please contact us. This can be a simple area of law…it can be a complicated area of law. As with any area, forearmed is forewarned. Don’t be afraid to call. We are here to help.