Pennsylvania law requires that child support be awarded pursuant to statewide guidelines, which is simply a formula to calculate a parent’s share of basic child support. The guidelines, which can be found at Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.16-2 through 1910.16-7, are suggested amounts of support, based upon a presumption of the cost of raising children statewide, the parents’ net monthly incomes or earning capacity, and the number of overnights the children spend with each parent. Support orders administered by the county Domestic Relations Office are collected by wage garnishment and deposited directly to the payee’s checking account.

What are the Parts of a Child Support Obligation?

After determining a basic child support obligation, Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910-16-6 authorizes the allocation of additional extraordinary expenses, such as childcare, health insurance, unreimbursed medical, dental and orthodontic expenses, private school tuition, summer camp, extracurricular activities, sports and tutoring. These extraordinary expenses may be added to the support order, paid directly to the provider or to the other parent.

Does Health Insurance Lower Child Support?

Health insurance for the children is always included in the support order. The parent who currently receives health insurance coverage as a benefit of employment is assigned the obligation to maintain coverage. If that parent is the payor, the basic support order is reduced by a percentage of the monthly cost of coverage. If the parent maintaining coverage is the payee, a percentage of the monthly cost is added to the basic support order. Medical, dental and orthodontic expenses which are not covered by insurance are always included in the support order. A percentage of the cost of these expenses are reimbursed to the payee upon presentation of documentation and after payment of the first $250 per child per year.

Is Childcare Included in a Child Support Order?

If the parent having primary physical custody of the child or children is not working, childcare is generally not included in a support order. If both parents are employed and the need for childcare is ongoing, a percentage of the monthly cost is generally included in the wage garnishment; particularly when the child is an infant or toddler. Since the cost of childcare drops off significantly with school age children, and there is variability in the costs of before/after school care and summer camp, these costs would be included in the order for support, but paid directly to the provider or other parent.

If the child or children attended private school when the parties were together, the cost of tuition is generally included in a support order, provided there is no significant change in income or earning capacity.

Does Child Support Cover Extracurricular Activities?

County Domestic Relations Offices differ on what types of extracurricular activities are included in a support order. It is not unusual to see the costs of tutoring, scouts, sports and activities registration and uniforms included in a support order. The financial circumstances of the parties will determine whether expenses of SAT prep courses, driver’s education, college applications and horseback riding are paid from basic support or added to the order.

Create a Child Support Agreement Without Court

The Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines are simply a starting point for negotiations. Even when you run the guidelines, there are always other expenses incurred in raising children which may be added to the basic support obligation. To ensure that your children get the financial support they need, consider using a team of Collaborative Professionals to help you resolve this issue outside of the court process. A Divorce Coach will work with parents to determine mutual goals and expectations for raising the children. A Financial Professional will generate reports to determine the respective parties’ and children’s expenses and make recommendations for support. The Collaborative Process is a more equitable process than what one can expect from the county Domestic Relations Office, although it is not necessarily equal. In addition, it allows for support to be paid directly to the other parent, or to a provider, and allows for adjustments up or down depending on the varying costs of extracurricular activities.

About Rochelle Bobman

Rochelle Bobman, a court-appointed Mediator in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery and Chester Counties, practices family law with Bort Law. She is a member of the Collaborative Law Professionals of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Collaborative Law and Mediation Committees of the Montgomery Bar Association. She has extensive experience in divorce matters and custody often representing parents in dependency and involuntary termination matters.

Click here to learn more about Rochelle Bobman.