Tag Archive for: child support

You love your child and want the best for them. Your marriage may end, but you are still a parent. You need to navigate the divorce process so you start a new life in the best possible position and ensure that your child’s needs are met, too. 

You Are Not Alone 

Parents with special needs children are more likely to get divorced than other married couples, according to Psychology Today. It is estimated that: 

  • 20% of US homes have a child with a disability, special health care needs, or a chronic illness  
  • The divorce rate of married parents with a child with disabilities might reach 87% 
  • The divorce rate for those with a child who has autism is about 80% 

The challenges and disagreements that can arise when parenting a special needs child may be the reason for a divorce or just one of many that pushed the relationship over the edge. 

Things to Think About 

When you are trying to plan your post-marriage life, think about: 

  • Your child’s needs, whether they are functional, medical, psychological, educational, or social 
  • What will meeting those needs cost in time, effort, and money 
  • Who will absorb those costs, and how 

You may need the help of a life care specialist to come up with answers. If you and your spouse disagree about your child’s needs and care, an outside third party without a personal bias may help bring the two of you together on these issues. 

Child Custody 

Whether your child has special needs or not, decisions about which parent should have what kind of custody should be guided by your child’s best interests. The judge in your case is bound by law to use that standard. If the two of you agree on custody issues, the judge will ensure your plan meets that standard. If you cannot agree and the matter is litigated, that is how the judge will make a decision. 

What is your situation? 

  • With whom will the child live? 
  • How much time will they have with each parent? 
  • How stable will each parent’s household be? 
  • Are both parents up to the task of caring for the child equally?  
  • Is one in a better position to provide care most of the time? 
  • If one parent is unwilling or unable to handle the child’s needs, is the other equipped to be the exclusive caregiver? 
  • How involved will the extended families of each parent be in helping with your child? Will one be alone, while the other will benefit from family members playing active, supporting roles? 

If you have another child without special needs, what custody arrangement is best for them? 

Child Support 

The state’s child support formula does not account for the additional financial burdens of parenting a child with special needs, including specialized care, equipment, enhanced nutrition, or accessible housing. But a judge may order a non-custodial parent to pay more than the guideline indicates if the circumstances call for it. 

Typically, the obligation to pay child support ends when the child reaches the age of majority (18) or graduates from college. But if a child with special needs requires caregiving for an extended period, if not the foreseeable future, that may be extended.  

Depending on the extent of a child’s disabilities, they may qualify for government benefits (including paying for custodial and medical care), help in finding employment, and independent living. The parents must do their best to get as much help as possible for as long as possible.  

The parent receiving child support should not expect the payor to pick up the tab for services that may be free or at a reduced cost, thanks to government or charitable programs. 

Get the Help You Need from an Attorney You Can Trust   

If you are thinking about getting divorced or have decided it is the next step, call us at (215) 608-1867. We can discuss your situation over the phone, via a teleconference, or meet in our Langhorne or Doylestown office.   

The state’s child support laws create a system in which parents are obligated to support their own children. This requirement includes daily living expenses, including healthcare and daycare.   

Usually, one parent is the primary caregiver, and the other pays to help with the child’s needs. The money is not for the custodial parent’s benefit. It is to be spent on the child.  

Child support is also an issue during divorce proceedings when the spouses have a child. It could be one of many issues that must be resolved before the divorce is final. If the parents are living apart, a child support agreement or order can go into effect while the parents are still married. 

How Do I Start the Process? 

Child support can be arranged in several ways. Parents can agree on support and ask a judge to approve the agreement through a support order in a divorce or other family law proceeding. Most cases start when a parent completes an Application for Child Support and submits it to their local Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) office. If your case involves other circumstances, we can help you work with BCSE to:   

  • Find a noncustodial parent 
  • Establish paternity if the child is born outside of marriage 
  • Establish support obligations 
  • Collect and distribute support 
  • Enforce support obligations 

What are Bucks County Child Support Payments Based On? 

Support is based on the reasonable: 

  • Needs of the child  
  • The ability of the non-custodial parent to pay 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court creates support guidelines and should be the basis of any agreement. Judges also use them to develop a figure if no deal is reached. Guidelines are driven by the parents’ monthly income. Both parents may be ordered to pay support for a child not in their care. 

The most essential factors in the guideline include: 

  • The parents’ incomes 
  • Daycare costs 
  • Health insurance expenses 
  • The number of minor children of each parent 
  • Social Security benefits a child may receive 
  • The child’s living arrangements 

A judge will review the support amount at least every four years. After an order has been signed, if changed circumstances justify it, a parent can ask that the amount be increased or decreased. 

How Can Support Be Spent? 

Support can pay for: 

  • Food 
  • Clothing 
  • Shelter 
  • Medical insurance 
  • Medical expenses 
  • Education expenses 
  • Child care 
  • Visitation travel costs 
  • Extracurricular activities 

Child support obligations continue until the child is 18 or graduates high school. Child support payments may continue if they have special needs or continue their education. 

How are Child Support Orders Enforced? 

When a non-custodial parent does not pay the full support amount on time, they violate a court order and may face serious consequences. The receiving parent could file a court action to enforce the order, with or without an attorney’s help.  It is not wise to ignore a support order.  

A parent could also request help from BCSE, which can enforce child support orders by pursuing unpaid amounts on your child’s behalf. Typically, there is a small fee to start a case. BCSE has several enforcement tools at its disposal.  

Which approach is right for you depends on your circumstances. If child support is one of several matters we help you with, it makes sense for us to handle this issue, too. If you do not have money to spend on an attorney, BCSE is a good choice. 

We Can Help You Achieve Your Child Support Goals  

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., lawyers believe that, unless there is an agreement, parents should not receive less child support or pay more than the law requires. Whether you pay or receive child support, if you have questions about it or need legal representation, book a 15-minute consultation by filling out our online form.  

Depending on the circumstances of your job loss, you may be able to modify the child support order. Unless you are desperate, do not lower your payments without at least the other parent’s agreement until you get court approval. 

What is Child Support? 

Parents must financially support their children until they are 18 or are self-supporting. Generally, the parent with more custodial time receives child support payments from the noncustodial parent. The money must be spent for the child’s benefit.  

If the parents cannot agree on how much should be paid, a judge will decide the issue. A state formula for payments considers the parents’ incomes, the number of children involved, and other factors.  

Can My Payments Be Lowered If I Lose My Job? 

Payments can change if a parent’s income increases or decreases. You can ask a judge to modify your child custody order if it is impossible for you to continue making the planned payments. The judge will need evidence about the facts of your job loss. You have the burden of proving through admissible evidence that a material and substantial change of circumstances occurred since the court order was signed. If a parent’s income was involuntarily reduced and it is not part of a scheme to avoid their child support obligation, a court will consider reducing the support obligation.  

Job loss might not be enough to justify a modification. Child support can be collected from many sources, including unemployment benefits and severance pay. If you genuinely cannot make your payments, pay what you can and explain the situation to the other parent. Acting in good faith may help your attempt to change the child support order. 

Can the Court Expect Me to Pay Child Support If My Income is Cut? 

If the judge finds your evidence does not support your request, or there is evidence you got yourself fired to avoid support payments, you may be stuck making the same payments even though you are not working. The court may “impute” income and maintain your obligations. 

Courts, generally, will not do this if the job loss is not your fault. But, if the court finds you are intentionally underemployed or unemployed to avoid paying support, the judge can impute additional earning capacity when calculating child support payments. It would be what you should earn if you had a full-time position in your field, given your experience level. 

We Can Help You Achieve Your Goals 

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., attorneys believe that, unless the parties agree, no one should receive less child support or be made to pay more support than the law requires. One of our lawyers may obtain a modification of your support payments efficiently and for an affordable fee.  

Whether you are paying or receiving child support payments, if you have questions about modifying a court order or need legal representation, book a 15-minute consultation by filling out our online form

Nearly all family law matters are resolved through agreements, including child support payments. Parents could create a DIY child support agreement. But it is not a good idea if you are the one receiving the payments because you are better protected when the court is involved. 

What is Child Support?  

Child support is a parent’s periodic payment for their child’s financial benefit. This can be done with a private agreement or a court order. Child support payments apply to situations in which the parents never married, the parents are married but living apart, or the parents are divorced. A parent receives the payments, but they are to benefit a child.    

How is the Amount Determined?  

It is based on guidelines established by the state’s Supreme Court. The parents’ incomes are calculated and used in a formula that considers many things, including the number of children. The custodial parent pays child support to help pay for the care of the child. The guidelines are just a starting point, and what is paid could vary significantly depending on the circumstances. 

The parents split expenses based on their incomes and ability to pay. How much is paid is also impacted by whether custody is shared. The amount paid in child support is not always clear-cut because incomes may vary depending on how a parent is paid (hourly, salary, sales commission, bonuses, or a combination). Child support generally continues until a child is 18, but that may be extended depending on the situation. 

Why Not Just Work Out a Child Support Agreement? 

There is not much more work left if an agreement has been reached and reviewed by each party’s attorney. If you are a custodial parent, do not negotiate an agreement without legal help. Your child may be entitled to more support than you realize. 

You could look at court approval as a formality, but that does not make it a waste of time. It adds certainty and protection to the parent receiving the support. There is no guarantee that payments will never stop, come late, or be less than they should be. Court involvement brings a system of enforcement that can benefit your child. 

A child support order protects you in a situation in which the other party does not live up to the agreement. In most orders, when the other parent is a W-2 employee, child support obligations will be attached to their earnings. As long as they are paid, child support will be paid as well. If an order is in place and payments are made directly from one parent to the other, if the payments stop, you can file for enforcement of the child support payments.  

Whether you pay or receive it, if you have questions about child support or need legal representation, call Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., at (866) 311-4783 or complete our online contact form today.   

Child support payments do not just consider what the paying parent earns but what they should earn to a certain degree. If there is evidence that a parent lowered or ended their income to avoid child support payments, a judge can decide their financial obligations based on what they could reasonably be expected to earn. 

What is Child Support? 

In Pennsylvania, parents must financially support their children until they turn 18 or become self-supporting. The parent with more custodial time is generally entitled to receive child support payments from the noncustodial parent. 

If parents can not agree on a support amount, a judge will do it for them. It will depend on the parents’ incomes and the number of children involved. Income can include: 

  • Social Security payments 
  • Commissions 
  • Bonuses 
  • Pension payments 
  • Retirement savings income 
  • Unemployment compensation 
  • Veteran’s benefits 
  • Rent from properties 

Determining child support obligations can be complicated. Incomes can fluctuate when someone is self-employed, owns a business, or when their earnings are impacted by bonuses or commissions (or lack of them).  

When Does Imputing Income Become Necessary? 

Not all of these paying parents want to pay support or pay as much as they are ordered to pay. They may illegally reduce their income and claim they can not afford to make payments. They may: 

  • Work “under the table” for cash and not declare this income 
  • Quit their job 
  • Take a demotion 
  • Work fewer hours 

When there is credible evidence the parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed to reduce their support responsibilities, not because of a legitimate issue (disability, layoff, economic downturn), a judge may impute (or attribute) income to them so the child gets adequate support. 

How Does a Judge Decide What a Parent Should Earn? 

Under Pennsylvania law, the judge may impute what their full-time income should be within limits. It can not be more than what would be earned in one full-time job. It also must be based on the parent’s circumstances, including whether they have used substantial good faith efforts to find employment and: 

  • Childcare responsibilities and expenses 
  • Assets 
  • Past employment and earnings 
  • Job skills 
  • Educational level 
  • Literacy 
  • Age 
  • Health (physical and psychological) 
  • Criminal record and other employment barriers 
  • Past efforts seeking work 
  • Local job market 
  • Local prevailing wages 
  • Other relevant factors 

Given all the variables involved, each case is unique. Remember, if you hear of an outcome in another case, it may have no relevance to your situation. 

If you have questions about child support or whether a parent should pay more or less, call Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., at (215) 752-6200. We represent parties on both sides of this issue and can provide critical legal representation to help you meet your goals. 

Divorcing when you have children brings on many questions. Here in our Langhorne, PA office, we help couples determine many post-divorce logistics related to their children. This can include how much child support you are going to pay or receive, as well as where your children are going to spend their time. Determining your parenting time schedule can be a bit difficult for parents.

First and foremost, for most parents, the most difficult part of setting up a custody schedule is realizing they are not going to be spending every day with their child. Children have the right to spend time with both parents, during the week, on weekends, and then on special occasions.  

There are many factors that can complicate a parenting schedule including where parents live, their work schedules, where the child attends school, and his/her activities. If parents can sit down together, alone or with their attorneys, it is best to collaborate on a plan. If they can not do this, then the matter will go in front of a judge who will determine the parenting schedule.  Judges often hear cases in which one parent would like sole custody for the sake of moving far away, making it prohibitive for the other parent to enjoy a 50/50 custody arrangement.  

How does a judge determine a parenting time schedule in PA?

There are 16 factors that the court can use to determine the custody of a child. They include:

  • the likelihood of the parties to encourage the child to remain in close contact with the other parent
  • any past abuse
  • what each parent currently does for the child and could that be continued
  • how stable the child’s life is
  • the availability of extended family to help
  • the existence of siblings
  • the child’s preference
  • whether the parents put the child in the middle of their disagreements
  • whether one parent is more likely to take better care of the child than the other
  • the distance between the parents
  • who will care for the child if the custodial parent is at work
  • whether there is significant conflict between the parents
  • any drug use, mental or physical abuse, or other relevant personal characteristics that may be present in the home

Most parents realize that when a judge makes a decision it is legally binding and must be followed. This is why it is best to work it out between the parties before the matter winds up in court. If your spouse is unreasonable we can negotiate child custody and a parenting schedule for you. Sometimes it is just easier to have legal representation in the room with you or to review your plans to get both parties to be a bit agreeable.  

Child support in Pennsylvania is based on statewide guidelines established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The guidelines are intended to ensure that similarly situated parties are treated similarly. Accordingly, all parties with a combined monthly income of $5000 per month with 3 kids would arguably have the same support obligation based on the guideline amounts. There is a presumption, albeit rebuttable, that the amount of support indicated by the guidelines is the appropriate amount. The guidelines are based on an “Income Shares Model” with the designated obligation being subsequently shared by the parties based on percentage of custody time as well as percentage of income.

The amount of support reflected in the guidelines is meant to provide for average expenditures for food, housing, transportation and other necessary miscellaneous items on behalf of the children. The guidelines make financial support of children a top priority. Accordingly, outside of the basic needs of the party providing support, the child’s needs in terms of support come first. Pennsylvania does however recognize a self-support reserve based on the federal poverty guidelines to ensure that a party is left with a certain amount per month to support themselves.

The first key step in calculating child support is determining the gross income of the parents. The list of what will be considered income for purposes of a support calculation is expansive. Sources of income include wages, salaries, bonuses, net income from businesses, interest, rent, royalties, dividends, all forms of retirement, income from interest in estate or trust, social security disability or retirement benefits, workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation. Alimony may be considered after the court examines the whether the alimony is intended for general support. Lump sum awards are also income and can be averaged over a certain period of time to identify how it translates into monthly income. Examples would include lottery winnings, income tax refunds, settlements, awards or verdicts and insurance compensation.

Net income will be used for purposes of the calculations. To determine net income, the rules provide that only taxes, mandatory union dues, and alimony paid to the other party be deducted. In a scenario where either party is unemployed or underemployed, an earning capacity may be imputed based on prior work history, education level, particular skill set or experience. Verification by a physician is required to prove that a party is physically incapable of working such that they should not be imputed any income.

The party having custody majority of the time is identified as the obligee or the party receiving the support. The party paying support is referred to as the obligor. In a shared custody situation there may still be a support order to be paid by the party with a higher income depending on the discrepancy in the parties’ incomes. The rules for arriving at the appropriate support award differ for low income as well as high (over $30,000/month combined income) income cases.

Adjustments may be made to the basic support obligation depending on additional expenses of the children. Health insurance premiums and child care expenses are routinely addressed as part of the support award and allocated between the parties based on percentage of income. Examples of other expenditures which may be considered include private school tuition, summer camp, and other special needs. An adjustment may also be appropriate if there are other children to support and the total support obligation for all children exceeds fifty percent (50%) of the obligor’s income.

Child support in Pennsylvania is based on statewide guidelines established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The guidelines set support based on the combined net monthly income of the parents as well as the number of children involved. August is National Child Support Awareness Month. August has been dedicated to child support awareness since 1995 when President Clinton began it as part of his welfare reform agenda. All 50 states participate in child support awareness month. The purpose of raising awareness is to improve the collection of child support payments. The preferred method of collection is wage garnishment. Pennsylvania does use wage garnishment as a means of securing consistent payment.

The court has the authority to issue a bench warrant to have a party who is not making support payments taken into custody. Additionally, the court can order additional incarceration at a subsequent support enforcement hearing as a means of reiterating the importance of regular support payments and demonstrating the severity of the punishment available for failure to comply. The court can also seize any lump sum payments due to the payor including unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, insurance settlements, Social Security retirement or disability benefits, and other public or private retirement funds. Additional sanctions for failure to pay support may include suspension of driver’s license, recreational licenses and passport.

Child support in New Jersey is determined using the state’s child support guidelines. A worksheet evidencing the calculations to arrive at the child support order should be completed in every case. Primary considerations include the income of the parties and the custody arrangements. As it relates to the custody arrangements, there are different worksheets for use: sole parenting or shared parenting. The sole parenting worksheet is to be utilized when one parent has all the time or greater than 78% of the overnights. The shared parenting worksheet is appropriate if the alternate parent has the equivalent of at least two overnights per week under the regular schedule.

The other primary consideration is income. For purposes of a support calculation, income includes all earned or unearned income including, but not limited to, salary/wages, tips, commissions, interest/dividends, rent received, bonuses, alimony payments, pension or retirement distributions, lawsuit settlements, worker’s compensation, unemployment benefits, severance pay, gambling winnings. For self-employed individuals income consists of the gross receipts of the business minus necessary business expenses. What may be acceptable as an expense as far as filing taxes with the IRS is not necessarily an expense that would be deducted in a support calculation.

Accurate income information should be disclosed as part of the Case Information Statement submitted in virtually every family court action. Verification of the income information provided should be attached. Examples include tax returns, W-2 statements, pay stubs, profit/loss statements, etc. Taxes, prior child support orders, mandatory union dues should be subtracted from the gross taxable income and combined with any gross non-taxable income to determine the amount of income available for support. Certain benefits for the children must also be accounted for in determining income such as derivative benefits (e.g. Social Security Disability).

The basic child support award is arrived at by looking at the total number of children and the combined net income of the parents. Once the basic support award is identified, adjustments can be made for other regularly occurring expenses such as child care costs, health insurance costs, and other recurring expenses. The final figure is then broken down based on each parent’s percentage share of the combined income also taking into consideration the parenting time.

In low income cases, the final figure may still be adjusted to ensure the party owing support has an appropriate self-support reserve.

Child support is modifiable as circumstances change. For example, any substantial change in income or overnight custody time should be examined to see if a change in support is warranted. New Jersey builds in a routine cost-of-living adjustment for all support orders. Methods of payment can include direct payment, direct payment through the Probation Department or wage garnishment. The Probation Department is responsible for enforcement of all support orders.

The answer to this question seems straightforward: According to PA law, child support ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later, unless the parents have agreed in writing to continued support or it has been ordered by the courts because of the special needs of the child.


The law is explicit, but there are a few caveats. Although efforts are made in the law to create a system of oversight, you can’t depend on the overburdened court system to know when your child’s support should end and terminate the order automatically. Additionally, you do have options to modify child support, whether you are the custodial parent or the parent paying the support.


The Domestic Relations Section office (DRS) of the state in which the child support order was given is expected to send an inquiry to the custodial parent within 6 months prior to the child’s 18th birthday, confirming the birthday, graduation date, and any written agreements for the continuation of support. If the custodial parent does not respond within 30 days or confirms the dates and there are no legal agreements for continuation, the charging order may be modified or terminated in court automatically – but don’t count on it. If you are the paying parent and you want to terminate payments, you should take the matter into your own hands.


In order to request a modification or termination order, a few months before your child graduates or turns 18, file a Petition for Modification of an Existing Support Order with the DRS in the county listed at the top of your child support order. The custodial parent will be notified and will have the opportunity to appear to contest the petition.  If you are the paying parent, whatever you do, don’t stop paying before the court order is changed. The courts will enforce any agreement you have with the other parent, taking it out of your wages and possibly adding a penalty on top of that. And if you have other children you are continuing to support after one child reaches emancipation age, the change in payments may not be significant.


There are a number of circumstances that can justify the modification or termination of child support, and either parent can petition for modification:

  • The income of either parent changes materially
  • A serious injury or medical condition of either parent or child occurs
  • Living status changes (for instance, the child moves out or custodial parent moves in with someone else) The child’s educational needs change
  • The paying parent’s responsibilities to other children or aging parents increases

Reach out to us if you have any questions about whether your situation would justify a modification or termination of child support.