Child custody is usually the main area of discussion in divorce negotiations between parents. Depending on how contentious the divorce is, the reasoning behind the divorce, and the age of the couple’s children, child support determinations can become complex. In Pennsylvania, family laws aim to work in favor of the best interests of the children of divorcing parents. The court will work toward a resolution that is healthy and financially reasonable for the children involved in a divorce.
Custody and Support
A child support agreement hinges on the divorcing couple’s custody agreement. In a joint custody agreement in which each spouse has equal time with the couple’s children, child support may not even enter the discussion if both spouses are financially stable on their own. However, if one spouse earns more than the other, the court may decide the higher-earning spouse needs to pay child support to make up the difference to maintain the standard of living to which the children are accustomed.
Depending on the divorcing couple’s employment situation, the court may deem that one parent is more capable of providing consistent child care than the other. If one spouse has broken the law in the past or has a history of mental illness, addiction, or abuse, the court will likely only grant partial custody or visitation rights. The parent who has the greater share of custody becomes the custodial parent in child support determinations.
The court will review the divorcing couple’s financial records and other documentation to rule in the best interests of the couple’s children. If one parent obtains custody of the couple’s children, the court will consider several factors in calculating an acceptable amount of child support. These factors include:
· The number of children involved.
· The non-custodial parent’s monthly income. The court will rule with an amount that the non-custodial parent should be able to reasonably manage in his or her employment situation.
· The custodial parent’s monthly income. The court will assess the custodial parent’s need for financial support and award an appropriate amount.
· Any alimony payments the non-custodial parent already pays to an ex-spouse from a previous marriage.
· Alimony payments the custodial parent pays to an ex-spouse.
· Child support payments the custodial parent pays for children from a previous marriage.
· Monthly premiums the non-custodial parent pays for group health insurance coverage.
· Monthly premiums the custodial parent pays for group health insurance coverage.
· The custodial parent’s monthly daycare costs.
In Pennsylvania, the Bureau of Child Support Enhancement (BCSE) handles child support cases and offers qualifying families various child support-related services including paternity testing, locating a non-custodial parent, establishing court orders, and several other child support services. The BCSE can also help custodial parents make changes to a child support order and help collect support payments. If a non-custodial parent moves out of state, the BCSE will help to ensure the non-custodial parent maintains support payments.
It’s wise for both spouses going through a divorce to secure legal representation for handling child custody. An experienced family attorney can help a divorcing spouse gather all the necessary evidence and documentation needed to make a strong case, however, the Pennsylvania court system will always strive to rule in the best interests of the children involved.