Each party's monthly income is evaluated for the purposes of determining an appropriate support order. Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure dictate that each party's monthly gross income based on at least a six-month window should be ascertained first. For purposes of support gross income includes all wages or salary, bonuses, commissions, business income, rental property income, pension or retirement payments, royalties and dividends, and income from an estate or trust, social security disability and retirement benefits, disability benefits, workers' compensation, unemployment compensation and alimony. It also includes any other entitlement to money or lump sum awards such as lottery winnings, tax refunds, insurance compensation, settlements, awards or verdicts.
Pennsylvania utilizes support guidelines to determine the appropriate amount of support in each case. The initial step is to determine the net monthly income of the parties and who will be receiving the support. There is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of support as dictated by the guidelines is correct. In order to overcome this presumption a fact finder must make a determination that application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate. The guidelines are reviewed every couple of years to make sure they are still appropriate given current costs of raising children and the poverty level. The goal of using support guidelines is to ensure that similarly situated parties are treated similarly.