In Pennsylvania, the non-custodial parent of unemancipated children has an absolute duty to pay child support to the custodial parent. The purpose of this rule is clearly to ensure that children of separated and divorced parents do not suffer financially due to their parents' separation.
The amount of child support is determined according to Pennsylvania child support guidelines. The guidelines are income based and reflect what a non-custodial parent would pay in child support based upon his or her income or earning capacity. A parent cannot refuse to get a job merely because he or she does not wish to pay child support, nor can a parent quit a job he or she currently has because they do not wish to pay child support.
The child support order can include provisions for health care, school tuition, and other items of benefit to the children. A petition for child support is filed in the Domestic Relations Office of the county which has jurisdiction over the case. Primarily, this would be the last place of primary residence of the children. It is extremely important that a parent have competent legal representation at the hearing held before the Domestic Relations Office to ensure that the recommended order is neither too high nor too low.
The order entered by the domestic relations office will become final unless appealed to the next level. The Domestic Relations Office enforces the order on behalf of the party seeking child support and has the authority to take away drivers, fishing, hunting, and professional licenses, among others, if a parent is significantly behind in their child support payments. Passports can also be confiscated and the non-payer parent can be put in jail if they refuse to pay their court ordered support.
Pennsylvania does not require child support past the age of 18 or when a child graduates from high school, whichever is last to occur. Neither parent has statutory obligation to pay child support for college, although the parties can mutually agree upon the payment of college tuition should they wish to do so.
To estimate what you may owe in child support, you can use the PA Child Support Program's Calculator. For more information, see our page on child custody. If you need help managing your child support, contact us today to make a consultation appointment with one of our skilled attorneys or view our client testimonials.
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