Child support payments are a primary concern for divorcing parents as the income used to maintain one household will now be used to finance two homes. Child support is a source of income for many families; the funds are used to pay for basic necessities such as food and clothing. However, child support is meant to cover a broad range of expenses not necessarily factored in to the basic calculation.
How is child support calculated?
The State of Pennsylvania calculates child support payments by factoring in the combined adjusted net income of both parents and the number of children. The calculation method was designed to give children the same financial support from parental income as if the parents were still together. The combined net income is factored using the after tax net income totals, but any paycheck deductions outside of taxes, such as voluntary retirement account contributions, are factored back in as income.
Although child support is award to the custodial parent, the amount paid is prorated by the amount of time the child spends in the care of each parent. For instance, a non-custodial parent who cares for the child 40 percent of the time is eligible for a discount on child support paid to the custodial parent. However, even in a 50/50 custody arrangement, child support can still be awarded to the spouse with the lower income.
Additional expenses to consider
In theory, child support is meant to cover everything that is reasonable necessary to care for the child. However, Pennsylvania Code outlines additional expenses that can be factored into the basic child support obligation.
Child care costs, if necessary for the custodial parent to maintain employment or continue education to further career opportunities, can be allocated between both parents. Generally the parent with better employer covered benefits is responsible for carrying health insurance for the child, but the cost of health insurance premiums and any additional medical expenses can be divided between both parents.
The child support guidelines assume that the spouse staying in the marital residence will bear responsibility for the cost of the home, including the mortgage payment, property taxes and home insurance costs. However, if the cost of the mortgage is more than 25 percent of that spouse’s income the other spouse may be ordered to pay higher child support to help cover the cost of the home.
When budgeting for life after divorce, it is necessary to review all the costs associated with raising a child and have those factored into the child support calculation. Both parents should be willing to contribute funds so the child can have an enriched life in addition to having their basic needs met.