By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Whether you are paying child support or receiving it, a new revision in the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines may impact the child support amount in your case.

Child support in Pennsylvania is calculated according to state guidelines. The guidelines are based upon a statistical model that seeks to measure the portion of household income that parents in intact families spend on their children. Our laws then apply these models to divorced, separated and/or otherwise unmarried parents based on the idea that children in separate households should receive approximately the same resources as children in a single, intact-family household. The guidelines are revised every four years to keep up with the realities of our economic circumstances and the cost of living.

The most recent revision, which goes into effect on May 1, 2017,  results in a modest increase in the child support amount at most income levels, though it is not the same at all income levels. For example, in a family where both parents earn approximately $4,000 net of taxes per month, the increase due to the guideline revision may be approximately $30 per month.

It is important to remember that Pennsylvania Courts do not automatically adjust child support Orders to reflect this change when the guidelines are updated. Instead, a parent must file a petition to modify support to obtain a new Order. Though the petitioner (the person seeking a new support Order) must demonstrate that a change in circumstances has occurred that warrants a modification, a change in the guidelines qualifies as such a change if it results in a material change in child support.

Speaking with your attorney before filing a petition to modify is essential. While the revision may entitle you to a slight increase in support, it is crucial to remember that this change in the law is not considered in a vacuum. Once a petition to modify is filed, the court can consider changes to the each parent’s income, healthcare costs, extracurricular activities, childcare costs and/or any other circumstances of the family. It is possible that changes in these variables may offset any increase you might other see due to the guidelines revision. Furthermore, the cost of potentially litigating a child support modification case may outweigh the increase to which you might be entitled.

Discuss the new guidelines revision with an attorney to address the pros and cons of a  possible support modification in your specific circumstances. Having a full understanding of the possible outcomes of your case can help you make the best decision for your family.