Pennsylvania’s child support guidelines generally determine what each parent’s financial obligations will be in the event of a divorce or separation. However, the skill of an experienced child support lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of child support negotiations.
For most people, child support is calculated based upon a formula that takes into account:
- Both parents’ incomes
- Parental expenses, such as the number of additional children a parent may be supporting
- The amount of time each parent has with the child (shared custody, partial custody, sole custody)
- Any special needs of the child, such as medical needs or educational needs
Parents with very significant incomes that exceed the amounts covered under the guidelines will typically negotiate support payments in line with their ability to pay.
The primary focus of the guidelines is the net incomes of both parties. This may sound easy, however, there are many different rules that can apply in order ensure that the calculations are made correctly. A child support hearing often leads to a hearing before a hearing officer who acts as a judge. This hearing is essentially a trial and involves the cross-examination of the other parent, the presentation of testimony and evidence, as well as legal argument.
Child support can become very complex. It is important for an experienced attorney to oversee the child support determination and to deal with situations involving self-employed individuals, hidden incomes, unemployment and job loss, earning capacity, child care and medical costs and many other scenarios that can effect the final determination. Unfortunately, I receive telephone calls every day from people who chose to represent themselves at a child support hearing and were very unhappy with the result because the judge would not listen to them or they didn’t know the law. Remember, there are no “do-overs” and I cannot get a new hearing for you because you were unhappy with the first hearing. Make sure that you are treated fairly the first time.
I continue to represent my clients as their families and their needs change and modification of agreements and orders becomes necessary because of change in income or other financial circumstances. Have your circumstances changed since the last time you were in court?