Pennsylvania Child Support & Overnight Calculations

Pennsylvania child support is based on overnight totals

Pennsylvania uses overnight totals in its child support formula to determine the amount of child support in your divorce case.

Besides income, overnight totals are a key part of the Pennsylvania child support formula. Your parenting time directly affects your child support, whether you pay or receive.

Most overnight time totals are estimates (and thus incorrect)

Pennsylvania attorneys and judges often rely on overnight estimates only, even if they are incorrect, because counting total hours is tedious and time consuming. Divorcing parents often rely on these estimates as well.

Using estimates means your overnight totals are wrong when compared to your actual parenting time schedule. This means your child support amount will not be fair or exact.

How to calculate overnights instead of relying on estimates

To calculate overnights, the easiest and most accurate way is to use software. Without software, you're forced to count each night for a whole year, which is error-prone when you include alternating holidays, summer break, and any changes to the schedule throughout the year.

The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your overnights to see if they were estimated incorrectly.

Calculate Your Overnights Now

Using software, you can also tweak your schedule to see how even little changes affect your total parenting time, and you can see how your overnights change each year due to holidays and other events.

You can also track what actually happens, and show how much time you've actually received for any period of time. Historical information is a powerful tool when you request a child support modification or when you request more parenting time.

Fast facts on child custody and child support in Pennsylvania

In any divorce, Pennsylvania family courts award custody of the children to one or both parents. Custody is divided into legal custody and physical custody. The total parenting time factors into the child support formula for both sole and shared custody.

Pennsylvania sole physical custody: The children reside with and are supervised by the residential parent, while the other parent is entitled to scheduled visitations. In Pennsylvania, sole physical custody is given to the parent with whom the children live with and spend the most time with. The non-residential parent hosts the children for fewer than 146 overnights, or 40 percent of the time each year.

Pennsylvania shared physical custody: Each parent has significant periods of physical custody, which allows them frequent and continuing contact with their children. Pennsylvania law outlines shared custody as any arrangement in which the child has regular and continuing contact with both parents. Parenting time does not have to be equally divided to qualify for shared physical custody.  The non-residential parent must host the children for 146 overnights or more each year to qualify for shared custody.

Pennsylvania child support formula and parenting time percentages

Pennsylvania family courts use both parents' incomes and the number of children to arrive at a monthly child support amount.  A parenting time adjustment is given based on shared custody.

Sole custody formula: The total income from the non-residential parent is put into the formula. Certain deductions from that total are allowed. To be considered a sole custody case, the non-residential parent spends fewer than 146 days per year, or less than 40 percent of the time, with the children. There is no parenting time credit given for sole custody situations. The residential parent receives child support from the non-residential parents according to Pennsylvania law.

Shared custody formula: A different formula is used for shared custody child support calculations. Both household incomes figure into the formula, unlike the one for sole custody. In Pennsylvania, when the family court orders shared physical custody, the non-residential parent must host the children for 146 days per year or more. The more overnights, the greater the credit is toward child support.

Examples of sole child custody and Pennsylvania child support

Consider the hypothetical case of Robert and Mary. Robert's adjusted income is $4,000 per month, while Mary's adjusted monthly income is $2,400. They have two children.

See how the child support amounts change in these examples:

  • Scenario #1: Robert is the non-residential parent in this sole custody case, and is scheduled to host the children for fewer than 146 days per year. He pays $837 in child support each month to Mary.
  • Scenario #2: Mary is the non-residential parent and hosts the children for fewer than 146 days per year. She pays $524 in child support to Robert.

In Pennsylvania sole custody cases, the non-residential parent pays child support to the residential parent, regardless of income.

Examples of the shared custody formula in Pennsylvania child support

Consider the hypothetical case of Robert and Mary. Robert's adjusted income is $4,000 per month, while Mary's adjusted monthly income is $2,400. They have two children.

See how the child support amounts change in these examples:

  • Scenario #1: Robert hosts the children for 150 days, just over the minimum to qualify for shared physical custody. He pays $800 in child support per month to Mary.
  • Scenario #2: Robert hosts the children for 160 days. He pays $754 in child support per month to Mary.
  • Scenario #3: Robert hosts the children for 170 days. He pays $707 in child support per month to Mary.
  • Scenario #4: Robert and Mary agree to a 50/50 split, or 182 days. He pays $677 in child support per month to Mary. This is because he is the higher earner.

In Pennsylvania shared custody, the non-residential parent pays child support to the residential parent. In the case of a 50/50 split, the higher earner generally pays child support to the lower earner to ensure the children's standard of living is the same in both locations.

Other factors in the Pennsylvania child support formula

Pennsylvania's child support formula uses the following information to calculate your monthly amounts for shared custody child support:

Eligible children: Age of majority in Pennsylvania is set at 18 or graduation from high school, whichever occurs later.

Gross earnings: Gross earnings are established based on tax records and current pay stubs. Pennsylvania law uses one parent's income from the equivalent of one full-time job to determine a child support amount in sole custody cases. Both incomes figure into shared custody child support.

Specific deductions: There are some deductions allowed by Pennsylvania family courts that allow an adjustment of the income, including health insurance premiums for the children, support for other children and child care expenses, for example.

How accurate child support helps your children

Paying accurate child support helps your children in several ways, primarily because it ensures their financial needs are met.

Here are some other reasons why accurate overnight numbers help you, the other parent and your children:

  • It provides a fair way to determine your child support amounts
  • It guarantees the child support amount reflects each parent's responsibilities
  • It allows for modifications if your actual time and scheduled time are different
  • It is compliant with Pennsylvania law

Your financial obligations to your children don't end with divorce, so whether you are paying or receiving child support, you owe it to your children to pay or receive the proper amount.

Top 5 things to remember about Pennsylvania child support and overnights

To ensure you are paying or receiving the right amount of child support in Pennsylvania, remember these 5 things:

  1. Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines award sole or shared physical custody based on the number of overnights the non-residential parent receives.
  2. Sole physical custody means that the non-residential parent is scheduled for fewer than 146 days with the children per year.
  3. Parents with more than 146 overnights qualify for a parenting time adjustment based on the number of overnights per year. The parenting adjustment means lower child support amounts.
  4. The non-residential parent pays child support to the residential parent in Pennsylvania.
  5. In the case of a 50/50 split in parenting time, the higher earner pays child support to the lower earner.

Use Custody X Change software to create a custody schedule that will quickly calculate the total parenting time for the Pennsylvania child support formula.

As you negotiate what kind of custody schedule will best fit your needs, the software will accurately calculate your overnights.


The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your overnights to see if they were estimated incorrectly.

Calculate Your Time

The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your overnights to see if they were estimated incorrectly.

Calculate Your Overnights Now