A parent’s duty to pay child support is calculated by applying the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines. The Guidelines were developed under the Income Shares Model. This Model examines the percentage that in-tact families spend on basic needs such as housing and food and tells us how much a family at certain income levels typically pay to care for the children.
When determining a parent’s basic child support obligation, each parent’s net income is determined by examining pay stubs, income tax returns and other documents that identify a parent’s income. However, generally speaking, a parent’s expenses, such as rent, utilities, car payments, and the like are not considered when calculating one’s duty to pay support.
It may seem unfair to exclude one’s living expenses when calculating a parent’s duty to pay support. It is important to understand that these expenses are usually not considered because people earning the same income spend their money very differently. Therefore, if expenses were considered when using the Income Shares Model, two parents making the same incomes could have very different support obligations. As a result, parents are expected to adjust their spending habits so that they can each pay their support obligation.
The basic child support obligation does not include health insurance premiums, childcare expenses, medical expenses, camps, or private school tuition. These expenses are allocated between the parties in proportion to their incomes and then added to the basic child support obligation. Sometime these allocated expenses can exceed the basic child support obligation, particularly where a young child is enrolled in full time daycare. Additional expenses such as birthday parties, vacations and the like are not part of the basic child support obligation nor are they included in the allocated expenses. However, parents are free to negotiate a child support payment that includes expenses that the Support Guidelines do not consider.