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Pennsylvania child support, custody, visitation, and wage garnishment rules

Use this Pennsylvania child support law to learn about your child support rights and responsibilites.

How is Pennsylvania child support determined?

In Pennsylvania, either or both parents may be ordered to provide child support, based on their ability to pay. The courts will consider:

  • the net income, assets and earning power of the parents
  • any unusual needs of the child or the parents
  • any extraordinary expenses

There are official Pennsylvania Child Support guidelines, designed to be in the best interests of the child, that the courts use to help determine the correct amount of child support. These guidelines will be followed, unless the parents have agreed to a child support amount approved by the court, or the court finds these guidelines unjust for a particular case. The formula used in the guidelines to determine each parent’s support obligation is based on the combined income of both parents, and then determines each parent's pro rated share of the base support amount.

At what age does child support payments end?

Generally, the obligation ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. A child will also automatically be ineligible for child support is removed from disability status by a court order.

Pennsylvania's custody guidelines:

Generally, the parents agree upon decisions about parenting and custody. If there is no agreement between the parents, then the courts will make these decisions.

In Pennsylvania, joint or sole custody may be awarded based on the best interests of the child, and the following considerations:

  • which parent is more likely to promote frequent physical contact between the child and the other parent
  • whether either parent has a history of violent, abusive or harassing behavior

In considering custody, the recommendations of a counselor may be used by the courts. Both parents may be required to attend counseling sessions regarding the child's custody. When joint custody is a possibility, the courts may require the parents to submit a joint
parenting plan.

Pennsylvania's medical insurance guidelines:

If health care is available at a reasonable cost to the non-custodial parent through employment or other group coverage, the court will require that the non-custodial parent provide coverage to the children.

The same applies to the custodial parent. Unless the non-custodial parent is already providing health care to the children, the custodial parent must provide coverage if it is available to them at a reasonable cost through employment or other group coverage. 

If custody is shared, and health care coverage is available to both parents, the court will require that one or both parents provide coverage of the children. In determining which of the parents will provide health coverage in this case, the court will consider financial ability of the parties and the extent of coverage available to each parent.

If neither the non-custodial parent nor the custodial parent have access to employment related benefits, the court will order that one or both parents obtain health care coverage for the children which is available at a reasonable cost.

For any uninsured expenses, the court will divide the deductible between both parents.  The court will also likely assign to each parent a percentage of all uninsured expenses that have accumulated prior to the filing of the divorce.

Within thirty days of the order requiring health care coverage or after any change in employment or coverage, the parent responsible for providing health care coverage must provide proof of coverage by submitting:

  • the name of the health care provider
  • the identification number
  • insurance cards
  • the address to which claims should be sent
  • a description of all restrictions on usage
  • a copy of the benefit booklet or coverage
  • a description of all deductibles and co-payments
  • copies of claim forms

How permanent are the provisions for Pennsylvania child support and custody ?

Court orders providing for support and custody of children are subject to change or modification to reflect significant changes in income, and/or living arrangements of the children.

While all orders concerning the children are modifiable in the future, we encourage you to not enter into an agreement based on the idea that it can always be changed or modified later.

Wage garnishment for child support payments:

Most states have a provision for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent who has been ordered to provide support. The payments are withheld much like income tax is withheld from
earnings payments.

This way of paying and receiving child support is generally easier for both parties and considered a very dependable solution. The way it typically works is, once the support is withheld, it is then sent to the state agency authorized to receive and disburse payments. Once it has been verified that the support was paid, it is then sent to the parent designated to receive the support.

How does joint custody work?

Joint legal custody has become commonplace in much of the nation.

Specifically, joint legal custody is a form of custody of minor children that requires both parents to share the responsibilities of the children, and for both parents to approve all major decisions related to the children.

While joint legal custody is a 50-50 sharing of responsibilities and major decisions affecting the children, it is rarely in conjunction with a joint physical custody order (a 50-50 sharing of time with the children). Often one parent is named as the primary physical custodian and the other parent is granted visitation or partial physical custody rights.

How Pennsylvania determines child visitation:

Generally, parents are free to spend time with their children at all times that are mutually agreed to by both parents. However, when parents cannot agree to exactly when visitation will occur, a standard partial custody schedule accepted most everywhere in the nation is:

  • every other weekend
  • four to six (4-6) weeks during the summer
  • alternating holidays

Partial custody rights, however, will be granted based on the unique circumstances of each situation.

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