In a support matter, the incomes of the parties will be used to calculate an appropriate award based on the support guidelines applicable throughout the Commonwealth. At the initial appearance for a support matter, both parties are asked to bring in proof of their income in the form of W-2s, tax returns, pay stubs, or other documentation of income received. If a party is unemployed or underemployed, the rules specify that an earning capacity may be imputed. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.16-2(d)(4) explains the first step is a finding that a party willfully failed to obtain or maintain appropriate employment. Involuntary reductions in income (e.g. lay-offs or unemployment due to illness or disability) generally do not trigger earning capacity arguments.
23 Pa C.S. Section 4321 provides that married persons are liable for the support of their spouse according to their respective abilities to provide and parents are liable for the support of their unemancipated children under 18 years of age. Domestic Relations is the branch of the court that handles support applications. An application for support can be filed with their office in the county where you reside or where the payor resides. An application can also be initiated online through the support program website. Support between spouses is based on the difference in income. 40% of the difference in income can be awarded in a case where there are no children. 30% of the difference in income is appropriate where there is also a child support component. Child support in Pennsylvania is based on statewide guidelines established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The guidelines are based on an "Income Shares Model" such that the guideline amount is shared by the parties based on percentage of custody time as well as percentage of income.
Pennsylvania utilizes support guidelines to determine the appropriate amount of basic support in each case. The Rules of Civil Procedure also contemplate other expenses that can be added to a support calculation. Child care expenses as needed to allow for employment can be added to the support award. The total amount of child care expenses should be adjusted to reflect the federal child care tax credit if applicable. Health insurance premiums that provide coverage for children and/or the other party can be allocated between the parties' in proportion to their income. This is only applicable where a party is paying a portion of the premium as opposed to a scenario where the employer covers the full cost or a third party is providing the coverage.
Once a support order is established each party is under a continuing obligation to notify the court of any changes income, employer or employment status. Changes income may impact the support order under the guidelines as the amount of support varies based on the income bracket the parties fall into. A reduction income does not necessarily mean the support order will change. The court can consider the reason behind the reduction income. A voluntary reduction income should have no effect on the support order. Voluntary reductions income are defined as a party taking a lower paying job, quitting or leaving a job, changing occupations or returning to school or being fired for cause. The purpose behind this provision is to make sure parties cannot benefit from attempts to escape or lower their support obligation.
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.
Alimony Pendente Lite, or APL, is spousal support while the divorce is pending. A party may petition for APL at the same time as the divorce complaint or any time thereafter prior to the entry of a final decree. The purpose of APL is to ensure each party has the ability to sustain themselves during the divorce. A party seeking APL should be ready to prove they lack sufficient property to provide for their reasonable means and are financially unable to support themself during the pendency of the divorce litigation. It is the income-dependent spouse who would have the opportunity to receive APL.
Section 4321 of the Domestic Relations laws provides that married persons are liable for the support of each other according to their respective abilities to provide support as provided by law. Similar to child support, spousal support will be calculated based on a statewide guideline. Without children, spousal support is 40% of the difference of the net incomes of the parties. If there is also a child support order, spousal support will only be 30% of the difference of the net incomes.