Child Custody Expenses in High Income Cases

The definition of “high income” and the calculation of support varies from state to state. In Pennsylvania, Rule 1910.16-3.1. of the Pennsylvania Code defines high income as the combined net income of both parents in excess of $30,000 per month. The monthly child support formula, which includes a base figure plus a percentage of income, is calculated depending on the number of minor children to be supported. This figure is then divided between the parents according to their income and the number of overnights a child spends in each home.  

A judge has the option to adjust this figure as necessary, based on a number of factors. For instance, if a child has special needs or extraordinary medical bills, the judge will make sure the child’s needs are sufficiently covered, to the extent that the parents are able. Often, children from high-income families attend private school and/or have expensive extra-curricular activities. The judge may further adjust support to maintain the standard of living to which the child is accustomed.

Additionally, if there is a great discrepancy in the income of the parents, the judge will consider the living standards of the lower-income parent. The judge may adjust support in order to maintain a comfortable standard of living for children when staying with either parent. When making these decisions, the best interest of the children is always the goal.

Child support ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later. The paying parent, however, should not depend on the court system to terminate the standing order. If the parent wants to end support, he or she should file a motion to modify child support shortly before the legal ending date, to allow time for the process to take place.

Given that mandatory child support ends at the end of high school (or at 18, whichever is later), it follows that contributing to the cost of college is not required. If this is an important goal, it’s best to come to an agreement, in writing, before child support is calculated by the courts. Once it is in writing, this agreement becomes binding, and the supporting parent is obligated to maintain the support as written. As with any contract, not paying the tuition would be a breach of contract and the spouse can be taken to court, where the judge can order payment.

As with all Pennsylvania child support issues, it is always a good idea for parents to consult an attorney.  We can determine if the guidelines have been followed and if an agreement is fair. Furthermore, we can make sure that all of your paperwork is filed correctly with the court.