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Support for Children

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Support for minor children

Generally all parents have an obligation to support their children financially.  When determined by the Court, the amount of child support owed is calculated based upon the combined net income of the parties, and the percentage of overnight custodial periods that each party has, applied to a statewide guideline.  A party may owe child support even if they have primary custody of a minor child, and certain circumstances may increase or decrease the amount of child support you owe.  Under most circumstances the obligation to pay child support ceases when the child turns 18 and graduates from High School.  Unless the parties agree otherwise, there is no obligation to support a child who is in college.

Support for Dependant adult children

There are certain circumstances in which a party may be required to provide support for adult children.  Generally, this is required when the child is severely disabled such that they cannot support themselves.  Additionally, where the parties have agreed to provide for the payment of secondary education expenses, the Court will enforce this agreement.

Complex and non-complex support conferences and hearings

There are two types of Support Hearings (whether for child support, spousal support, or APL).  A simple, or non-complex case is one where both parties incomes are readily obtainable.  In these types of cases a net disposable income calculation can be performed for both parties and applied to the Pennsylvania Child Support guidelines.  Even cases where the parties earn more than $350,000 per year in combined income can be non-complex provided that the sources of income are clear, and there is no issue as to the earning capacity of either party.  Generally, a case is considered to be “non-complex” if the parties income can be ascertained by the Court in a hearing lasting about 20 minutes.  At a non-complex conference, a Court employee reviews the parties income information and explains to them how the guidelines apply to them.  If the parties are unable to agree on a support amount, the matter proceeds to a hearing which may be the same day (Allegheny County) or at a later date (Butler, Westmoreland & Washington counties). 

A complex case is one where the Court believes that the required time for hearing will exceed 30 minutes.  These cases can last from about two hours to, in rare circumstances, several days and discovery is permitted so that it is possible to get information directly from the opposing party.  Complex cases usually focus of two issues.  The first deals with determining a parties income when they are a private business owner, a 1099 employee (independent  contractor) or when a substantial portion of their income comes from cash (or even illegal) sources.   A second common complex issue is “earning capacity” which arises when person has the capacity to earn an income (in any amount) yet for some reason chooses to earn less.  There can be legitimate reasons for a diminished earning capacity like caring for younger children, attending school, or disability, however, a party is not permitted to work for no reason whatsoever.  If your case deals with a complex issue, it is important that you engage counsel early in the proceedings so that they can be prepared to deal with all of the eventualities that may arise in your case.