Pennsylvania utilizes support guidelines to determine the appropriate amount of support in each case. The initial step is to determine the net monthly income of the parties and who will be receiving the support. There is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of support as dictated by the guidelines is correct. In order to overcome this presumption a fact finder must make a determination that application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate. The guidelines are reviewed every couple of years to make sure they are still appropriate given current costs of raising children and the poverty level. The goal of using support guidelines is to ensure that similarly situated parties are treated similarly.
Pennsylvania uses an “Income Shares” approach which presumes that children of separated parents should receive the same amount of support as a child in an intact family. There are a number of studies that demonstrate what an intact family spends on their children in proportion to their income and the guidelines reflect the average expenditures for children on a monthly basis. The primary focus is on the income of the parties however expenses may be considered and deviation from the guidelines may be appropriate where there are unusual or extraordinary expenses. A support award may be adjusted if the party owing support is already at poverty level and barely able to sustain their own basic needs. The 2016 federal poverty level for one person is income of only $990 per month. Outside of falling below the poverty level, it is unlikely a deviation from the guidelines would be warranted due to expenses.