Child Support Calculations in High-Income Divorces

Child Support Calculations in High-Income Divorces

When a couple with children divorces or when unmarried parents separate, determining child support is one of the most important aspects of the case. Changes in child support have helped standardize the process, including how a judge determines the level of child support in high-income cases.

History of Child Support in Pennsylvania

The state did not always have guidelines that judges were required to follow. Before 1988, the court had wide latitude in deciding how much child support should be provided to the custodial parent. These case-by-case determinations created an unequal application in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. Child support could range from nearly nothing to a sizeable percentage of the paying parent’s income. Low-income parents were particularly burdened with paying a greater proportion of their income.

The federal Family Support Act of 1988 changed that. States were required to have standardized statewide support guidelines. Federal regulations also require that the guidelines be reviewed at least every four years.

The basic guidelines did not address all the needs in divorces where parents have a high income and standard of living. Specific child support provisions for high-income parents were adopted in 2010 and amended multiple times, most recently in 2021. These latest changes took effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

The Basics of Child Support

The custodial parent typically receives child support from the parent with less parenting time (noncustodial parent). The child support guidelines in Pennsylvania are primarily based on the income of both parents and the number of children needing support. The judge will also consider other support obligations, the children’s ages, and other factors that support the children’s best interests.

Basic child support should cover the following expenses for raising a child:

  • Food, Clothing, and Shelter
  • Health Insurance
  • Basic Education

The order can also include money to cover extraordinary medical expenses, child care expenses, and other costs.

Child Support Guidelines for Wealthy Parents

Parents are considered high income when their combined monthly net income exceeds $30,000.

The courts use a standard method in high-income cases, too, although different from parents with incomes less than $30,000. In these cases, the courts follow a three-step process:

  • Step 1: Baseline Support Calculation. This process begins with the basic child support calculation. The state tables range from $1100 in net income up to $30,000. We’ll look at the extreme ends of the spectrum. A couple with two children and $1100 in monthly income would calculate child support to range between $33 and $35 per child monthly. Basic child support for a couple with a $30,000 monthly income ranges between $3608 and $6613 monthly. The court will use this last figure as the starting point for child support. From there, the calculation looks at the amount of income above the $30,000 threshold:
    • One child: $3,608 + 4.0% of combined monthly net income above $30,000
    • Two children: $4,250 + 4.0% of combined monthly net income above $30,000
    • Three children: $4,951 + 4.7% of combined monthly net income above $30,000
    • Four children: $5,530 + 5.3% of combined monthly net income above $30,000
    • Five children: $6,083 + 5.8% of combined monthly net income above $30,000
    • Six children: $6,613 + 6.3% of combined monthly net income above $30,000
  • Step 2: Adjustments Based on Custody. The judge will look at the parenting time/custody each parent has. The amount from Step 1 may be adjusted up or down depending on the time each parent spends with the child.
  • Step 3: Final Analysis. This step evaluates why certain additional expenses should or should not be included. These costs include private school tuition, summer camps, luxury vacations, designer clothes, and other expenses the children would enjoy or have access to if the parents were married or still living together. Other considerations include medical expenses not covered by insurance and other factors that impact the child’s best interests.

Legal Support for Complex Child Support Cases

Determining child support may seem straightforward but can be extremely complex. Having an experienced attorney arguing your case is crucial to fighting for your desired outcome.

At Scaringi Law, we provide personalized, effective legal representation for every client. Our knowledge of the law gives us the foundation to craft strategic arguments to best position your goals.

Questions about child support? Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. Reach out to us online or call (717) 775-7195.


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