You and your spouse have been in a rocky marriage for years and have exhausted all options to mend the great divide and rekindle what you once had. It’s not the future you expected, but one that has become a reality, and now a decision must be made. Do you trudge on and continue to search for calm and common ground? Or do you get divorced?

If divorce is the answer, the legalities of assigning child custody and subsequent child support payments will occur. If your spouse is awarded custody, you will be the one sending monthly payments.

Across the U.S. and its territories, three calculation models are used to determine child support:

  1. The Percentage of Income Model: Seven states use this and adapted variations of this model.
  2. The Income Shares Model: 40 states, including Pennsylvania, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, use this model to calculate child support payments.
  3. The Melson Formula: Three states, Delaware, Hawaii and Montana, use this hybrid model. It differs from the other two by making sure ensuring the parents can meet their basic needs before determining child support payments. Additionally, the court allocates a poverty self-support reserve to low-income couples.

Pennsylvania guidelines for calculating child support

Following the Income Shares Model, child support payments are calculated by first determining the cost of raising a child in the couple’s selected jurisdiction.

As an example, let’s say the cost is $1,200 per month, and the mother won primary custody. The mother is responsible for 60% of the $1,200, or $720. The father is now responsible for making up the difference each month, totaling 40%, or a $480 monthly support payment. While not monitored, the court assumes in good faith that the mother pays her share and utilizes the support payment for the betterment of her child(ren) through paying rent or mortgage payments, to buying groceries and clothes or other necessities.

To better your chances of gaining custody, create a stable financial and living environment that is in the best interests of your children. In Pennsylvania, standard child support guidelines do not apply only if both parents combined income totals $20,000 per month.