Pennsylvania Child Support Formula, with Examples

Pennsylvania uses a guideline child support formula to determine how much parents should contribute financially to their child's care. Parents can agree on a different amount, with court approval.

Child support covers the child's basic necessities: food, clothing and shelter. Support payments continue until the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever is later.

Usually, the parent with partial physical custody pays support to the primary physical custodian, who has more parenting time with the child. But if the parent obligated to pay support has over 40 percent of custody, the court makes adjustment based upon their percentage of custody.

Estimating parenting time could cost you thousands a year in child support. Calculate your time precisely with Custody X Change.

Calculate My Time Percentage Now

Estimating your guideline child support obligation

Parents can follow the steps below or use Pennsylvania's child support estimator to estimate their support obligation.

Step 1: Find each parents' monthly net income

Add up your monthly income from salaries, wages, bonuses, commissions and other sources, excluding Social Security and welfare. Subtract qualifying deductions, such as what you pay in federal, state and local taxes, and mandatory union dues, as well as support for other children.

Repeat the process for the other parent.

Example: Consider the hypothetical case of Keith and Audrey. Keith is the primary physical custodian of their child and has a monthly income of $2,500 after deductions. Audrey has a monthly income of $3,500 after deductions.

Step 2: Calculate combined monthly parental income

Add each parent's total from Step 1 together to get combined monthly net income.

Example: Keith and Audrey add their monthly net incomes together to get $6,000.

Step 3: Determine each parent's percentage of the income

Divide your individual monthly income from Step 1 by the combined monthly net income from Step 2 to determine your percentage.

Example: Keith divides his monthly earnings of $2,500 by $6,000 to get 0.4167, meaning he earns 41.67 percent of the combined income. Audrey divides her earnings of $3,500 by $6,000 to get 0.5833, or 58.33 percent.

Step 4: Find parents' basic support obligation

On the basic child support schedule, find your combined monthly income in the left column, and number of children in the row to its right. The dollar amount where the two intersect is the basic support obligation you share with the other parent. If your total falls between two amounts, the court tends to go with the greater amount.

Example: With a combined monthly parental income of $6,000 and three children, the chart shows Audrey and Keith share a basic support obligation of $1,761.

(Note that you'll add or subtract any amount the partial parent is ordered to pay or what they are paying for medical, dental and vision insurance, as well as any childcare expenses, and perhaps summer camp or other extracurriculars.)

Step 5: Find the partial physical custodian's basic support obligation

Multiply the shared basic support obligation by the partial physical custodian's income percentage (from Step 2) to determine their monthly payment. Round to the nearest dollar.

Example: Audrey, the parent with partial physical custody, multiplies $1,761 by 0.5833 to find she must pay Keith $1,027 a month.

Deviating from the guideline formula
Parenting time

The support guidelines presume the non-custodial parent is spending at least 30 percent of time with the child per month. If the parent paying support is not doing this, the parent receiving support can request an upwards deviation.

When the parent paying support has at least 40 percent of parenting time, the court reduces the parent's percenatge of the combined monthly parental income by 10 percent, or by 20 percent if they have at least 50 percent of the time.

Example: Audrey spends three days a week with the kids (40 percent of parenting time), so she qualifies for a 10 percent reduction. She takes her portion of the combined monthly income, 58.33 percent (from Step 3) and decreases it by 10 percent to get 48.33 percent. She multiplies the new percentage by the combined basic support obligation from Step 4 to get her reduced amount: $851 (.4833 X $1,761).

Low income

The court may lower the partial parent's obligation if the guideline amount would leave them with less that $931 of monthly income, or if their individual monthly net income and number of children fall within the shaded area on the support schedule.

To determine the adjusted amount, look at the obligation listed on the chart for your individual income and number of children, and compare it to how much you'd pay in accordance with the formula (detailed above). You'll pay the lesser amount.

Example: Consider Paul, who has a monthly net income of $1,150 and must pay support for two children. The support schedule shows the obligation based on his income and number of children is $154 due to his low income status.

The other parent has a monthly net income of $1,000, making their combined monthly parental income $2,150. According to the chart, their combined obligation is $735. With 53.49 percent of the income (see Step 2 for calculation instruction), Paul's individual obligation would be $393.15, per the guideline formula.

Paul will pay $154 per month in support, the lesser of the two results.

High income

When combined monthly parental income exceeds $30,000 (after deductions), the court orders parents to pay the highest basic support obligation for their number of children, plus a percentage of the amount over $30,000.

  • One child: $2,839 plus 8.6 percent of the combined monthly parental income over $30,000
  • Two children: $3,902 plus 11.8 percent
  • Three children: $4,365 plus 12.9 percent
  • Four children: $4,824 plus 14.6 percent
  • Five children: $5,306 plus 16.1 percent
  • Six children: $5,768 plus 17.5 percent

Example: Fern and Roger have two children and a combined monthly income of $35,000. They find the highest support obligation on the schedule for their number of children is $3,902.

Next, they multiply $5,000, the amount over $30,000, by 11.8 to get $59,000, then divide by 100 to determine they must add $590 to the amount from the schedule.

They add $590 to $3,902 to determine their adjusted combined support obligation is $4,492.

To calculate the amount he must pay as the partial parent, Roger multiplies $4,492 by his percentage of the monthly income, which is 52 percent (see Step 3). Roger owes Fern $2,336 monthly (4,492 X 0.52) before deviations.

The court then applies qualifying deviations for parenting time or additional expenses paid by the parent who's responsible for paying support. Finally, the judge considers the factors outlined in the next section to determine the final support amount.

Other deviations

A judge can also order a parent to pay more or less than the guideline amount if qualifying circumstances, such as high medical expenses or a new spouse's income, call for it.

There are separate formulas for cases wherein there are more than six children or the partial parent has multiple families.

Applying for child support

The child for whom you're seeking support must have a legal father. Otherwise, your application will be denied. Parents who weren't married at the time of their child's birth can establish paternity by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity together or opening a paternity case through a child support application.

Either parent can request a support order online.

After your county's Domestic Relations Section approves your application, you'll attend a conference where a conference officer will recommend a support amount and issue a temporary order. You can contest the decision if you disagree with the amount.

Every county has a different appeals procedure so you'll need to check your county's local rules. Generally, if you file an appeal within the 20 day window, you'll have a hearing before a judge (or hearing officer in some counties) where a final decision is made.

Modifying your support order

Modification may be necessary if a parent loses a job, the parenting timeshare changes, or a child turns 18 and graduates high school. To request a change, you can use the Department of Human Service's e-Services to file a petition for modification, or reach an agreement with the other parent and submit it to your county's Domestic Relations Section for approval.

Other child support details

If you receive public assistance, support payments go to the Department of Public Welfare. Each month, they'll send you a "pass through" check — a portion of the full support payment. You'll receive up to $100 for the first child and up to $200 or more per additional child.

Custody and child support are handled in separate court orders. A parent's failure to follow one doesn't affect the other. If the partial custodian misses child support payments, the primary custodian cannot withhold visitation, and if the primary custodian withholds visitation, the partial custodian cannot refuse to pay child support.

Nonetheless, a child support order is legally binding and must be taken seriously. If you cannot pay as ordered, the court can seize your income tax refund or garnish your wages. If you simply choose not to pay, a court can find you in contempt and even send you to jail.

Don't guess or estimate your parenting time percentage

Estimating your parenting time can impact your support order by thousands of dollars a year if you're on the verge of qualifying for a deduction..

Still, attorneys (and even the courts) usually estimate parenting time because manually calculating it is tedious and time-consuming.

The Custody X Change app lets you quickly and accurately calculate your exact parenting time.

With Custody X Change, you can tweak your schedule to see how even little changes affect your timeshare. And you'll see how your time changes each year due to holidays and other events.

Whether you are the one paying or receiving child support, make sure your parenting time calculation is exact. The number will affect you, your child and the other parent. It's not a job for estimation.

Estimating parenting time could cost you thousands a year in child support. Calculate your time precisely with Custody X Change.

Calculate My Time Percentage Now

Estimating parenting time could cost you thousands a year in child support. Calculate your time precisely with Custody X Change.

Calculate My Time

Estimating parenting time could cost you thousands a year in child support. Calculate your time precisely with Custody X Change.

Calculate My Time Percentage Now

No thanks, I don't need a parenting plan