The Law Forum – Child Support

With the increasing number of single-parent homes in our society, our court system is processing a record number of child support cases.

Unfortunately, child support cases can become complicated. In part, this is because the calculation of a child support award involves the use of a complex formula. This formula considers many factors including the incomes of both parents.

The incomes which are used are the parents’ gross incomes, minus mandatory pay deductions.

Importantly, if either parent’s income is less than what he or she could be earning, the court is allowed to calculate support using a parent’s earning capacity, rather than the parent’s actual earnings. This principle is applied in situations where a parent is not making a reasonable effort to work, or where a parent loses employment through his or her own fault.

Adjustments are also made in the support calculation for daycare expenses and for the child’s medical insurance premium costs.

With respect to daycare expenses, the court will typically require the non-custodial parent to reimburse the custodial parent for a portion of the custodial parent’s daycare expenses. This reimbursement is usually in proportion to the parents’ respective incomes, and is factored directly into the support calculation.

For example, if the custodial parent has daycare expenses of $100.00 per week, with the non-custodial parent earning three-quarters of the parents’ combined incomes, the non-custodial parent will have to reimburse the custodial parent for three-quarters of the daycare expenses.

The same logic is also used with respect to the cost of the child’s medical insurance premium costs. If the custodial parent is the one paying the medical insurance premiums, he or she will be reimbursed for a portion of the medical insurance premium cost based upon the parties’ comparative incomes. Again, this is factored directly into the support calculation.

On the other hand, if the non-custodial parent is the one paying the medical insurance premium cost, he or she will receive a downward adjustment in the support calculation equal to the amount which the custodial parent should contribute based upon the parties’ comparative incomes.

In the situation where both parents possess comprehensive medical insurance coverage, the court will typically require the child to be carried on the parent’s medical insurance coverage which is the least expensive.

Due to the fact that medical insurance rarely covers all medical expenses, the issue of uncovered medical expenses also arises. Under existing law, the custodial parent is required to pay the first $250.00 per child, per year, of uncovered medical expenses. However, uncovered medical expenses in excess of $250.00 per child, per year, are typically divided between the parents based upon their comparative incomes.

A common question is whether the court will consider the parents’ expenses, and step-parent incomes, in calculating a parent’s support obligation. Under Pennsylvania law, these items can be considered by the court, although they rarely impact the amount of support awarded.

In order to pursue a claim for child support, a written complaint form must be filed at the local domestic relations office. Thereafter, a conference is held by a domestic relations officer. This officer will enter a support award if the parties cannot agree on the amount of support to be paid.

If either party is dissatisfied with the support award, an appeal can be filed. This will result in a hearing being scheduled with a support judge.

If you become involved in this process, you must be prepared to present all of your evidence and to make all necessary arguments. If you do not, an unfair child support order may be entered by the court.

Edward J. Coyle is an attorney with the Buzgon Davis Law Offices. His column appears in the Lebanon Daily News on first Tuesday of each month.

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