Chester County Family Lawyers
Your Support Questions Answered

Your Support Questions Answered

Types of Support

When people think of support, the first thing that comes to mind is usually child support, with alimony being a close second. In Pennsylvania however, there are four types of support, all of which have their own purpose, factors and implications. Support includes child support, spousal support, alimony and alimony pendente lite (APL). Spousal support and APL refer to periodic payments made during the separation and before a divorce is finalized. Alimony on the other hand is any periodic spousal support payment made after a divorce is finalized. Child support is any periodic payment made by one parent to another for the benefit of the child.

Awarding Support

Unlike APL, which may be awarded only after a divorce complaint has been filed, spousal support may be awarded if the parties are separated. Unlike spousal support, there are essentially no defenses to APL. Therefore, while a spouse may not be entitled to spousal support because he or she committed fault grounds for divorce (i.e. abandonment, adultery), he or she may still be entitled to APL.

Calculating Support

In determining any award of support, the main factor is each parties’ income. Pennsylvania is the only state that has support guidelines, which are used to calculate three of the four types of support. Support guidelines only apply to spousal support, APL, and child support; the guidelines do not apply to alimony. Spousal support, APL, and child support are each calculated using both parties’ net monthly incomes.

If there are no children, spousal support and APL are calculated by taking the payor’s net monthly income, minus the payee’s net monthly income, multiplied by 40%. If there are children, spousal support and APL are calculated by taking the payor’s net monthly income, minus the payee’s net monthly income, minus the amount of child support paid to the payee, multiplied by 30%.

Pennsylvania is the only state with child support guidelines, which helps to eliminates the guess work regarding child support. Child support is calculated by determining what each party’s net monthly income is and referring to the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines to determine the proper amount of child support, based on the parents’ net monthly incomes or earning capacity. Each parent is responsible for child support in the amount that is proportionate to their share of the combined net monthly income of the parties.

Potential financial impact of challenging a payee’s income earning capacity

While a payor may be unhappy with having to pay support to a payee who may not be employed but is caring for the parties’ children, sometimes it may behoove the payor to not challenge the payee’s employment status or income earning capacity. For example, let’s say a current child support order is in place where the payee is not employed but is caring for the parties’ child(ren), eliminating the need for childcare expenses. In this scenario, the payor’s support payment amount is $500/month. The payor is upset that the payee is not employed and at the amount of support he or she is paying. The payor believes that if the payee worked, his or support obligation would be lowered. The payor therefore seeks to challenge the payee’s income earning capacity, is successful and the payee is now employed, which requires the children attend daycare. The cost of daycare is now factored into the child support amount and ultimately increases the payor’s child support payment to $600/month. From a financial standpoint, this did not workout for the payor as he or she is now paying $100/month more in support to the payee. An experienced attorney can advise you on this and similar issues so that you do not end up with an unintended result.

Helpful Support Tips

For support purposes, the court looks not just at a party’s actual income, but their earning capacity or what they should be making based on their education, training and experience.

Each party has an obligation to mitigate their income loss, to the best of their ability.

Neither party may willfully leave their place of employment or change positions in an attempt to reduce their income, so as to impact an order of support.

The payor does not have the right to know what the payee is spending their support money on.

Mortgage payments, health insurance payments, and childcare expenses (i.e. daycare) impact spousal and child support order amounts.


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