Mar 27, 2023
Child Support Calculations in Lehigh County: A Comprehensive Guide for Pennsylvania Parents
Parents (or legal guardians) have a legal obligation to support their children. In Pennsylvania and about 36 other states, the income shares model is used to determine child support. In theory, it means that children should receive the same amount of financial support that they would have received if their parents remained married. It is formula based. Child support is paid to the custodial parent (the parent who has the child more than the other parent). The child support payment is to be applied toward the child or children’s food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and medical expenses.
The Child Support Calculation Process in Lehigh County
Preparing for the Child Support Calculation Process
In Lehigh County, parents must meet with a Domestic Relations officer to create child support calculations at the beginning of a case. To prepare for this meeting, parents should bring in relevant paperwork, including paystubs for the last six months (as the Court takes a six-month average of income) and any other documents related to the support calculation. Having these documents on hand is important so the officer can accurately determine the guideline support amount.
Meeting with the Domestic Relations Officer
During the meeting with the Domestic Relations officer, the officer will take the information from the parties and run the recommended guideline support amount. Then, the officer may ask if the parties want to negotiate this amount. The parties can either accept the recommended guideline or negotiate a different figure. The officer may also address any questions or concerns the parties may have about the support calculation.
Negotiating the Support Amount
Suppose the parties cannot agree on a support amount during the meeting with the Domestic Relations officer. In that case, the officer will enter an interim order, which is temporary, and then schedule the case for a hearing before a hearing officer. However, the parties can negotiate the support amount during the meeting with the officer. Factors that may influence the negotiation include custody arrangements or the special needs of the child(ren).
Entering an Interim Order
If the parties cannot agree on the support amount during the meeting with the Domestic Relations officer, the officer will enter an interim order. An interim order is a temporary order that will remain in effect until a final order is entered. The interim order provides financial support for the child(ren) while the parties work towards a final resolution. An interim order can be modified later on.
Attending the Hearing Before a Hearing Officer
Suppose the parties cannot agree on the support amount during the meeting with the Domestic Relations officer. In that case, the officer will enter an interim order and then schedule the case for a hearing before a hearing officer. At the hearing, evidence may be presented, and the hearing officer will consider various factors when making a final decision. These factors may include the income and expenses of each party, custody arrangements, and the child(ren)’s needs. The hearing officer will then enter a final order determining the child support amount.
Modifying Child Support in Lehigh County
The law states that a modification is warranted when a “substantial or material change in circumstances.” Some factors that could alter a support calculation include substantial changes in income, the gain or loss of employment, relocation, death, or a change in physical custody. The parent who wants the support change will file a petition to modify support with the Court. In Lehigh County, a conference will be scheduled and held similarly to the initial conference.
Mediation as an Alternative to Court
The parties have other options if going to Court is not for them. For example, with mediation, the parties can negotiate these terms (with the recommended guideline amount) and can save time and money by not having to take time off from work.
Final Thoughts on Child Support Calculations in Lehigh County
Parties must understand that child support can be modified as often as necessary during the child support period. Child support ends when the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever is last. The Court will automatically modify the child support calculation when this occurs. The parties must petition every other modification.
Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation