Child support in Pennsylvania is based on statewide guidelines established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The guidelines are intended to ensure that similarly situated parties are treated similarly. Accordingly, all parties making $3000 per month with 3 kids would pay the same amount of support based on the guideline amounts. The guidelines are based on an "Income Shares Model." Accordingly, the guideline amount will be based on the combined net monthly income of both parties.
The amount of support reflected in the guidelines is based on the average expenditures of children for food, housing, transportation and other necessary miscellaneous items. The guidelines make financial support of children a top priority. Accordingly, outside of the basic needs of the party providing support, the child's needs in terms of support come first. Pennsylvania has established a self-support reserve based on the federal poverty guidelines. The current self-support reserve is $867 and a guideline amount of support that would leave a party with less than this sum will not be upheld. Instead, the award of support would be modified to leave the party with at least $867 per month.
In sum, parties should understand child support is a serious obligation. There is not much room for argument as far as what amount of support is appropriate. There is a presumption, albeit rebuttable, that the amount of support indicated by the guidelines is the appropriate amount. Further, Pennsylvania does maintain that the support of children is a top priority and is often unwillingly to change the support number based on the financial hardship it may inflict on the party owing support outside of the self-support reserve.