Pennsylvania Child Support Laws and Guidelines

The laws governing child support in Pennsylvania are different from that of other states. PA child support law sets how much the child maintenance should be, and the duration of such payments, plus it seeks to guide parents in exceptional cases such as deviation, support for disabled children, and retroactive support.

As you may already know, child support (or child maintenance) is a continuous monetary payment made by a spouse to another spouse, guardian, caregiver,  or the state for the upkeep of children after a divorce or separation.

The person who is required to pay child support is referred to as the “obligor,” whereas the person who is eligible to receive child maintenance is referred to as the “obligee.”

What is PA Child Support Laws?

The laws surrounding child support in Pennsylvania are designed to ensure that children receive the financial support they need from both parents. These laws outline the guidelines for determining the amount of child support that must be paid, as well as the process for enforcing these payments.

Under Pennsylvania law, the amount of child support that must be paid is determined by a formula that takes into account the income of both parents and the number of children involved. Factors such as the cost of childcare and health insurance, as well as any special needs of the children, may also be considered when determining the amount of child support.

In Pennsylvania, child support payments are typically made through the Domestic Relations Section of the Court of Common Pleas. This agency is responsible for collecting and disbursing child support payments, and it also has the authority to enforce these payments if necessary.

What does Child Support Cover in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, child support is intended to cover the basic needs of a child, such as food, clothing, and shelter. It may also cover additional expenses related to the child’s well-being, such as:

  1. Healthcare: This can include the cost of medical, dental, and vision care, as well as any related expenses such as co-pays, deductibles, and prescription drugs.
  2. Education: Child support may be used to cover the cost of school supplies, tuition, and related educational expenses.
  3. Childcare: If one parent works outside the home and requires childcare services, child support may be used to cover these expenses.
  4. Extracurricular activities: Child support may be used to cover the cost of activities such as sports, music lessons, and camps.

Child Support When One Parent Lives Outside Pennsylvania

To enforce child support orders beyond state boundaries, each state has to have the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) in place. Pennsylvania is no exception.

The UIFSA ensures that child support processes and procedures are consistent across states. When one spouse lives in another state where the Pennsylvania courts do not have the authority to adjudicate or enforce orders, UIFSA reduces these bottlenecks.

As a result of the UIFSA, a PA child support attorney can take legal action against a spouse who now lives in another state to enforce a child support order.

How is Child Maintenance Calculated In Pennsylvania?

How Child Maintenance Calculated In Pennsylvania

Learn How Child Maintenance Calculated In Pennsylvania

To calculate child maintenance, Pennsylvania uses the PA Income Shares Model/Percentage of Income Model/Melson Formula. This can be done easily using the Pennsylvania Child Support Calculator or Child Support Worksheet.

The amount of child support that must be paid is determined using a formula known as the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines. This formula takes into account the income of both parents and the number of children involved, as well as other relevant factors such as:

  1. The cost of healthcare insurance for the child(ren)
  2. The cost of childcare
  3. Any special needs of the child(ren)

To calculate child support in Pennsylvania, the combined monthly net income of both parents is first determined. This income is then used to determine the basic child support obligation, which is based on the percentage of the combined income each parent is responsible for.

Once the basic child support obligation has been determined, additional expenses, such as those related to healthcare and childcare, may be added. The final child support amount will be divided between the parents based on their relative income, with the non-custodial parent typically responsible for paying their share of the total amount to the custodial parent.

Pennsylvania Child Support Calculator or Worksheet

While a child support calculator can be used to estimate child support, it is not a guarantee of the final amount of child maintenance that the judge will order. A child support worksheet is a form used by the PA courts (or negotiating spouses) to approximate the basic child support obligation of the parents.

Regardless of which approach you use, spouses can decide on a child support sum and amend the worksheet accordingly to ensure it accurately reflects their agreement. Both establish a presumption duty to pay child support.

The final decision on the amount of child support is made by the administrative law judge, administrator, or court.

How Pennsylvania Guidelines are Applied

The PA court will use child support guidelines, which are law-based and are sometimes known simply as “Guidelines.  Guidelines establish a fundamental minimum amount of child maintenance, from which the court can differ after considering a variety of considerations.

The criteria are believed to be rational, and a decision of support that conforms to the guidelines is believed to be in the best interest of the child,” according to the guidelines.

The Pennsylvania Guidelines are based on Net Monthly Income. The court also will employ one of two methods after determining Net Monthly Income:

1. The first method applies if an obligor’s net monthly income is less than $7,500.00. The judge will consider the number of children in the household who are the subject of the petition in this case (note that a different calculation applies if an obligor has children in two different households).

2. The second method applies if an obligor’s net monthly income is more than $7,500.00.

Gross Income Included in Calculating Child Maintenance

For child support calculation purposes, gross income includes:

  • all wages and salary, including commissions, military pay, tips, overtime, and bonuses
  • self-employment income
  • interest and dividends
  • net rental income from property the parent owns

Even jobless parents are likely to have some sources of income, like:

  • severance pay
  • unemployment benefits
  • retirement benefits
  • veterans’ benefits
  • disability benefits, or
  • workers’ compensation awards.

A PA family court judge may also allocate an income value to parents who do not currently have income-earning employment (like a second house). If a jobless parent inherits assets that can be sold, for instance, the judge may include the property’s market value as a part of such parent’s income.

Where parents willfully go unemployed or underemployed in order to avoid paying child support, judges may infer (assign) income based on what they are supposed to be earning.

Net Income for PA Guidelines

How to determine Net Income for PA child support

How to determine Net Income for PA child support

Remove the following costs from the total gross income to get the parent’s net income for paying child support in Pennsylvania:

  • Social Security taxes, or any mandated retirement plan contributions if the parent does not pay those taxes.
  • Income taxes, both federal and state (based on the tax rate for a single person claiming one exemption)
  • union dues
  • The PA court has ruled the parent to pay the child’s health and dental insurance premiums, as well as additional medical bills.

Parents who have already paid child support for another kid or children (from a previous relationship) may be eligible for a refund.

Is Medical Health Insurance Part of Child Support in Pennsylvania?

Medical Health Insurance and Child Support in Pennsylvania

Medical Health Insurance and Child Support in Pennsylvania

Yes, in addition to the amount of support determined by the guidelines in Pennsylvania, the parents will be responsible for the child’s health and dental insurance.

Whereas the noncustodial parent is presumed to provide coverage, this can readily be transferred to the other parent if it makes good sense.

For instance, suppose the custodial parent’s employer offers healthcare insurance for the dependent but the noncustodial parent does not.

Factors Pennsylvania Courts Consider Before Ordering Maintenance

The following factors must be considered by the court when determining whether Pennsylvania Family Code applies:

  • The age of the child and needs; the parents’ ability to assist
  • Financial resources available to the child
  • For a set period of time, you have custody and access to a child.
  • An increase or decrease in the obligee’s earnings or income due to the obligee’s property and assets
  • Childcare expenses incurred by either parent in order to keep a job
  • any other children under the care of either party
  • Any other children under the care of either party
  • What kind of alimony or spousal maintenance is being paid or received;
  • Obligor or obligee receives an automobile, house, or other benefits from his or her employer or business entity.
  • The parties or the child’s special education, health care, or other expenses
  • The cost of traveling to obtain custody of and access to a child.
  • Cash flow from any estate and assets, including real estate, personal property, and business property, can be positive or negative.

How to Challenge or Modify Child Support Order

A parent must show that there’s been a substantial change in circumstances in order to alter child support. A Pennsylvania court may consider an alteration if:

  • a parent’s employment has been lost,
  • migrated to another country,
  • Alternatively, if the custody agreement has changed.

Child support orders are typically established by the court and are enforceable by law. However, circumstances may change over time which make it necessary to challenge or modify an existing child support order.

If a parent wants to challenge or modify a child support order in Pennsylvania, they must first file a petition with the Domestic Relations Section of the Court of Common Pleas. The petition should outline the reasons why the existing order should be modified, such as a change in income, the needs of the child, or other relevant factors.

Once the petition has been filed, the court will review the case and may hold a hearing to consider the evidence presented by both sides. In some cases, the court may appoint an expert witness, such as a child support specialist, to assist with the determination of the child support amount.

If the court determines that a modification is appropriate, a new child support order will be issued and the existing order will be modified accordingly. The new order will be enforceable by law and the parties will be required to comply with its terms.

Steps to Collect Child Support in Pennsylvania

Steps to Collect Child Support in Pennsylvania

Steps to Collect Child Support in Pennsylvania

Getting a child support order in place is only half the struggle in Pennsylvania. You’ll also have to collect the money itself. A noncustodial parent is responsible for paying the full amount of child maintenance per month as imposed by the court. Here are the steps for getting child support in PA

1. Open a Child Support Case

Complete a child support application with your local child support agency/office

2. Locate the Other Parent

To begin the child maintenance procedure in PA, the child support services (CSS) office will use the information provided by the applying parent, as well as information gathered from other sources, to try to locate the other parent.

3. Establish Parentage

It’s critical to establish a legitimate relationship with the child when the other parent has been located. The state will assist you in locating sufficient means. Parents can choose to acknowledge their parentage voluntarily or organize a genetic screening.

4. Establish a Child Support Order

A Pennsylvania child support order specifies how much the other parent should pay and includes details such as the payment schedule and provisions for the child’s health insurance.

5. Set Up Payment

Deducting child maintenance from a parent’s paycheck and transferring the money to the other parent or guardian is the most typical method of payment. It’s a simple way to make and track child support payments.

6. Enforce the Support Order

Your PA child support services will enforce the child support order if the noncustodial parent does not pay the full amount or does not pay any. Exposing overdue child support payments to credit bureaus, intercepting income tax refunds, and Withholding child maintenance from unemployment or worker’s compensation benefits are examples of other enforcement measures.

7. Review the Order

Three years after the order is issued, either parent can request their local child support office to revise it. They can ask for a reassessment sooner than three years if a parent’s situation has changed significantly, such as loss of employment or imprisonment.

Pennsylvania Child Support Services Office, Number, and Login Portal

Office – Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), a division of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
Phone Number – 1-800-932-0211
Online Login Portal –

Retroactive Child Support and Arrears

Retroactive child support refers to payments owed for the period before a child support order was established. Failing to pay child support in Pennsylvania can result in serious consequences, including the following:

  1. Wage garnishment: The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) may garnish the non-custodial parent’s wages to collect the owed child support. This means that a portion of the non-custodial parent’s income will be withheld and redirected to the custodial parent to fulfill the support obligation.
  2. Bank account seizure: The OCSE may also seize the non-custodial parent’s bank accounts to collect the owed child support.
  3. License suspension: The non-custodial parent may have their driver’s license, professional license, or recreational license suspended for failing to pay child support.
  4. Contempt of court proceedings: If the non-custodial parent continues to fail to pay child support, the custodial parent may seek enforcement of the order through the court. This may include contempt of court proceedings, where the non-custodial parent may be fined, jailed, or both, for failing to comply with the court’s order.
  5. Negative credit report: The non-custodial parent’s failure to pay child support may also be reported to the credit bureaus, which could negatively impact their credit score and ability to secure loans or other forms of credit in the future.

In Pennsylvania, retroactive child support can be enforced in the following ways:

  1. Request an administrative hearing: The custodial parent can request an administrative hearing with the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) to determine the correct amount of retroactive support owed and to initiate enforcement efforts.
  2. File a motion with the court: The custodial parent may also file a motion with the court to seek enforcement of the retroactive support obligation. This motion may include a request for wage garnishment, bank account seizure, license suspension, and other enforcement remedies.
  3. Work with an attorney: The custodial parent may also choose to work with an attorney to help enforce the retroactive support obligation. An attorney can provide legal guidance and represent the custodial parent in court, if necessary.
  4. Use the services of the OCSE: The custodial parent may also utilize the services of the OCSE to help enforce the retroactive support obligation. The OCSE has a range of enforcement tools available, including wage garnishment, bank account seizure, and license suspension.

If you feel the arrears are being demanded wrongly, you can learn how to get child support arrears dismissed HERE.

How to Pay Child Maintenance in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, parents can pay child maintenance in a variety of ways, as long as their order doesn’t state otherwise:

  • by debit or credit card,
  • mail,
  • check
  • bank transfer
  • direct deposit
  • income withholding, or
  • auto-draft from a bank account.

How to Check your Child Support Payment History in PA

Child Support Payment History in PA

How to Check Child Support Payment History in PA

When there are disagreements between the parents and a need to confirm how much money is owed, child support payment records are extremely beneficial.

When Does Child Support End in Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania court “may order that one or both parents to support a child until:

  • the child is 18 years or finishes high school (whichever comes last),
  • the child emancipates by getting married,
  • the child’s disabilities are removed, or
  • the child dies.

Nevertheless, if the judge determines that the child is disabled (physically or mentally), the child can receive support perpetually.

Custody Rights of a Child in Pennsylvania

Understanding Custody Rights of a Child in Pennsylvania

How Does PA Child Support Work if one Parent Has no Job?

If one parent in Pennsylvania does not have a job, the calculation of child support may still be based on their potential income. Potential income is determined by looking at a number of factors, including the parent’s education, work experience, and job market conditions.

If the non-working parent has the ability to earn an income but is not currently employed, the court may impute (attribute) an income to them based on their earning potential.

The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) may also utilize various enforcement remedies to collect child support from a parent who is not working, including wage garnishment of unemployment or disability benefits, interception of tax refunds, and seizure of bank accounts.

Is Child Support Tax Deductible in Pennsylvania?

NO. In Pennsylvania, child support payments are neither taxable to the recipient nor tax-deductible by the payer as stated by the IRS. Don’t include child support payments when calculating your gross income to see whether you have to file a tax return.

However, either parent may be eligible for a dependency exemption per child. If the parents can’t agree on who receives the exemption, the judge will set out the terms in a court order.

Getting a Skilled Pennsylvania Child Support Attorney

If you are involved in a family law matter in Pennsylvania, you may have a lot more questions than answers at this moment. You are not alone; Correspondence with members has shown that using the services of specialized child support attorneys saves a lot of hassles and most importantly, ensures you come out as a winner for you and your kid.

If you need to fight your child maintenance cause in PA with confidence, then you’ll need attorneys that are both empathetic and strong.

Luckily, we have compiled a database of these expert child support lawyers and made them available for the convenience of our members. You can reach them at the click of a button for legal advice and representation on child maintenance.

Pennsylvania Resource

- Pennsylvania Child Adoption Guidelines
- Pennsylvania Childcare Guidelines
- Pennsylvania Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines
- Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines
- Pennsylvania Divorce Guidelines
- Pennsylvania Marital Property Guidelines
- Pennsylvania Spousal Support Guidelines
- How to Check Pennsylvania Child Support Payment History
- Pennsylvania Child Support Calculator
- Pennsylvania Grants and Assistance for Single Mothers


Click Here to Get our Free Pennsylvania Alimony recommendation.

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Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.