Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines

Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines

Child Support Eligibility

In Pennsylvania (PA), individuals can apply for all of the available child support services at any time as long as the child is a dependent minor and you have full or shared custody, you have control of the child(ren), or you are a putative father.  You can apply for child support services even if the noncustodial parent, the parent who does not have primary care, custody, or control of the child(ren), lives in another state.

PA offers the following child support services:

  • Locating non-custodial parents
  • Establishing Paternity
  • Establishing Support Orders
  • Enforcing Support Orders
  • Reviewing and Adjusting Support Orders
  • Monitoring & Distributing Child Support Payments
  • Cooperating in Interstate enforcement

Obligations of Child Support

In PA, both parents have a financial responsibility to support their children. Usually, the parent with whom the children live receives support payments from the other parent. The duty to support a child exists whether or not the parents are married. Even a parent who is denied visitation must support the child. A parent cannot refuse visitation just because child support has not been paid.  The duty to support a child continues until the child is 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever is later. In situations where the child is disabled this duty may continue beyond age 18. A parent usually does not have to pay college expenses for a child who is over 18 unless this has been agreed upon as part of a divorce case.

Establishing Child Support Order

To get a child support order, a parent must file a complaint for support in your local county domestic relations office. Then a conference will be scheduled.  At the conference, both parents must give conference officer information about their income and expenses. The conference officer will make a recommendation about how much child support must be paid. The court will adopt this recommendation as a temporary order, but either parent can file an appeal within 20 days after the order is mailed. If either parent files an appeal, a hearing is held in front of a judge, who decides how much child support must be paid.

Custodial Parents

Child support orders can be established in the following ways:

  • A Voluntary Support Agreement (VSA) that is signed by a judge
  • A civil court action brought by the custodial parent, an organization, or the guardian of a dependent child
  • A Non-Support court action
  • A divorce order that includes child support

Non-Custodial Parents


Establishing paternity identifies the legal father of a child, which ensures certain rights for the child and access to the father’s medical information and benefits.  Paternity can be established thru the voluntary acknowledgement process. Both the mother and father complete a form known as an Affidavit of Parentage. This document becomes a legal finding of paternity.  Either parent can also bring a civil or criminal paternity action in which a court of law establishes the paternity of the child, and in most cases, a child support order is entered.

Paternity Determination Without the Court

Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP)

In PA, the AOP form allows unmarried parents to voluntarily establish paternity for their child without going through a court, and gives the father legal rights and duties as to the child. It also gives the child rights and duties as to the father. When a child is born to an unmarried woman, the birth mother and birth father who are not married to each other, may complete an AOP form.  Once the AOP form is completed, it will be processed and the Department of Health (DOH), Division of Vital Records (DVR) will be notified that paternity is established. The DVR will then issue a birth certificate listing the father’s name.

Teenage Paternity Rights

A minor can sign the AOP form without parental consent, as long as he/she fully understands his or her rights, responsibilities and obligations with respect to the child and the alternatives to and the legal consequences of signing the AOP form. If there are any doubts, the AOP form should not be signed. The minor is encouraged to speak with his/her parents or a trusted adult for guidance.

Disputed Paternity – Genetic Testing

If there are any doubts about who is the father of the child, neither party should sign an Affidavit of Parentage.  Either parent can request genetic testing to assist in determining the father of the child.  If a man denies that he is the father of a child, the domestic relations office may schedule blood tests for the man, the child, and the child’s mother. Any denial of paternity must occur early otherwise there may be a presumption that the man is the father. If the father does not sign the AOP form, paternity must be established through the courts. The mother can go to the Domestic Relations Section (DRS) and request paternity establishment services or consult with an attorney to be advised of her rights and possible course of action. In some situations, the man is presumed to be the father regardless of what the blood tests show. A case to establish that a man is the father of a child must be started before the child turns 18.  The father must establish paternity to have his name appear on the birth certificate.

Paternity should be established through the courts once genetic testing determines the father.  Once a court of law establishes the paternity of the child, in most cases, a child support order is entered.

Child Support Guidelines

Most states, including Pennsylvania, base their guidelines on the income shares model. The income shares model considers the incomes of both parents and relates to economic evidence on what families actually spend on their children. Each parent is financially responsible for his or her prorated share of child-rearing expenditures. A key premise of the income shares model is that the child should be entitled to the same level of expenditures that the child would have received had the parents lived together and combined financial resources. The premise applies to children of previously married parents as well as never married parents. Children should not be forced to live in poverty because of their parents’ decisions to separate, divorce, or not marry.  Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that also considers a standard amount of routine timesharing in its base support calculation.

Health Insurance and Other Expenses.

PA law requires the court to deal with health insurance for the children in every child support case. If one of the parents can get health insurance for the children at a reasonable cost at work, he or she will be ordered to do so. If both parents can get health insurance through work, then the parent who does not have custody will be ordered to get the health insurance. If neither parent can get health insurance at a reasonable cost at work, the court will order one or both of the parents to get other health insurance for the children, if this is possible at a reasonable cost. The cost of the insurance, and any uncovered medical expenses, are divided between the parties in proportion to their net incomes. Further, when the parent who has custody of the children needs child care in order to work or go to school to learn job skills, the other parent can be ordered to pay part of this expense. This is true even if the parent is getting subsidized child care.




























Modification of Child Support Amount

Mandatory Review

Federal regulations require review of any order when financial assistance and some types of medical assistance are being provided for the child(ren), if any of the following apply:

–       It has been three years since your order was issued or modified.

–       The financial situation of either party has changed significantly since your order was issued or modified.

–       Medical support was not included in your order and the child(ren) do not have health insurance other than Medicaid, or an adjustment to the medical support order would assure that the child(ren)’s health care needs be better addressed.

In PA, a support order may be changed if there is a substantial change in a parent’s circumstances—for example, an increase or decrease in income. PA law allows a parent to have a support order reviewed every three years, without having to show changed circumstances. The following reasons are from the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure indicating when a Petition – Modification/Termination/Reinstatement of an Existing Support Order can be filed:

–       A material change in circumstance

–       Amendment to the Support Guidelines

–       Existence of additional income

–       Reduction of income

–       Emancipation of a child

–       Death of a child or spouse

–       Parties have reach a private agreement

–       Special needs of a child

Parents are required to report changes in circumstances to the domestic relations office within seven days.  A parent who believes that the other parent has not reported a financial improvement can ask for a hearing.  In order to ask for a change in a child support order, the parent must go to the domestic relations office and ask the DRS for a petition for modification. Afterwards, the parties will be notified to attend a scheduled conference. If both parties agree with the new modified amount of support, the DRS will enter a new support order.

Locating Non-custodial Parents

You have the right to get support for your child. However, you may not know where to find the other parent or your former partner may not acknowledge that he is the parent of your child. PA has many tools available to find the non-custodial parent. You can help locate a non-custodial parent by giving as much information as possible to your child support worker.

Enforcement of Child Support Obligations

Successful enforcement depends on the quality of the information available. Most child support payments are paid through income assignment where a portion of the payor’s paycheck is withheld and sent to the state disbursing agency.  Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. sections 651-667, created a federal child support enforcement program which mandates that every state adopt a plan meeting certain standards for the collection of child support.

In PA, If a parent falls more than 3 months behind in paying child support, the Domestic Relations Section can suspend the parent’s driver’s license, hunting or fishing license, or any professional license. The DRS office can also take any lottery winnings, federal income tax refund checks, personal property, and bank accounts that belong to the parent. Also, A parent who willfully fails to pay child support can also be charged with contempt of court, fined, and sent to jail for up to six months. A parent who is sent to jail can often get work release and make support payments while in jail.

 Military Service Modification of Child Support

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

If you are called to active duty, you are protected under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), formerly called the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act. The purpose of the SCRA is to allow United States military personnel to devote their full attention to the defense of our nation by temporarily suspending judicial and administrative civil proceedings that may impact their rights.  In some instances, your military service activation may make you eligible for a change in your child support order during your time of service. If you feel that you qualify, you may ask the court to modify your order by filing a motion to modify.

Before you deploy, contact  DRS office that handles your support case(s) to:

  • Inform that you will be deployed or are joining the military, and how long is your military commitment;
  • Provide changes in your address, wages, and healthcare coverage for your children;
  • Request a review of your support case(s) for possible modification of your support order(s); and/or
  • Provide information about a relative or trusted friend who is caring for your child(ren) or assisting with your support case(s) in your absence.

When you return from deployment contact the DRS office that handles your support case to:

  • Inform that you have returned or have been discharged;
  • Provide changes in your address, wages, and healthcare coverage for your children; and/or
  • Request a review of your support case(s) for possible modification of your support order(s).

Pennsylvania Financial Assistance

In PA, if you are receiving public assistance, the child support payments go directly to the Department of Public Welfare (DPW). Then, each month, DPW sends you a “pass through” check for a portion of the current support that was paid that month, up to $50.   In most cases you can only get cash assistance for in PA for a lifetime maximum of 60 months. If you have income from a job or another source, getting child support may make it possible for you to go off welfare at least for a while. Then you can save some of your 60 months in case you need them later. If you leave welfare for a job, in many cases you can still get medical assistance, food stamps, and help with child care expenses. If you go off cash assistance, your child support checks must be immediately redirected to you. If this does not happen, call your local Legal Services office or the child support liaison at your county assistance office.

 Pennsylvania Child Support Resource Line:
(215) 686-7466 (Philadelphia)

Note:  The foregoing information is provided as general child support law guidelines

 in Pennsylvania and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case.  After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity

to submit more details specific to your case directly to
About The Children.

Submitted 9-16-13 by Linda O’Marie, Paralegal

Tagged with:
Posted in Pennsylvania Guidelines

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Popular Topics

Click to follow your blog and receive helpful parenting & court prep posts by email.

Join 11,173 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: