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How is child support calculated?

When calculating child support payments in Pennsylvania, courts calculate the net income of both parents. To determine a parent's net income, the monthly gross income is the starting point and then certain items are deducted. An average of at least six months is generally used when finding one's net income.

Income could come from many sources and may include salary, commission, interest, pensions, rent, workers' compensation, lottery winnings and certain Social Security benefits. Arriving at the net total might involve deducting income taxes, mandatory union dues, alimony payments and F.I.C.A. payments. Aside from net income, other factors like low or fluctuating income can influence a support agreement. While a child support modification usually does not happen when one decides to quit or change jobs, an adjustment could take place if income decreases involuntarily. This applies to factors a person cannot control like illness or being laid off. If one parent is a seasonal employee, a yearly average income is used instead of a six-month average.

There is a Self-Support Reserve of $931 per month in Pennsylvania, so one's child support payments may need to be lower than calculated to ensure one retains $931 or more per month. Support guidelines may also be adjusted when a couple's combined net income is greater than $30,000 per month.

Since alimony and child support orders vary based on income and circumstances, one cannot predict how much he or she will be given or have to give. Courts try to make decisions based on the best interests of a child or children, but there are times when parents may have concerns or need a support order modified. Consulting an attorney may be necessary with child custody and child support issues or modifications.

Source: The Pennsylvania Code, "Rule 1910.16-2. Support Guidelines. Calculation of Net Income.", October 14, 2014

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