March 30, 2016
By: Melissa Boyd
Shortly after getting married, you and your spouse agree that you will leave your job to be at home with the family. Ten years later, you and your spouse decide to separate. The court awards you child support. After a few years, you experience life changes that make the support payments barely enough for you to get by. And, without relevant work experience in the last decade, you are having difficulty landing a high paying job. You wonder if there is any way the court will reconsider and award you additional support.
During divorce proceedings, each state’s court uses a formula to decide the amount of child support to be awarded. This formula consists of different variables. These variables are things like each parent’s income, the number of children, either parent’s estimated cost of living, etc.
Once the formula is used to calculate child support, either parent can request a different amount if they disagree with the support decision. This is called “moving to deviate.”
To move to change the child custody amount, there are multiple factors to consider:
How Unemployment Affects Child Support in Pennsylvania
When a parent loses his or her job, the math changes for child support. In most situations, the job loss is completely involuntary and out of the employee’s control. However, there are unfortunate situations where job loss is arranged by one spouse on purpose with the goal of lowering support payments. In these cases, the dependent spouse is protected. The Pennsylvania rules that govern family law require that a child custody paying parent submits evidence to support claims that unemployment was involuntary in order for a change in child support to be considered.
Seasonal Employees and Income Fluctuations Effect Child Support Payments
There are many jobs that have seasonal income which can impact child support in Pennsylvania. For instance, construction workers, landscapers, furniture and car sales reps, and even teachers can experience income drops at certain times of the year. This change in income can create cause for child support modification. Similarly, changes in bonus and commission structure can create income changes that warrant another look at support amounts. Seasonal employees’ income is usually calculated annually in order to determine child support under the family law rules in Pennsylvania.
Changes in Custody May Necessitate Changes in Child Support
When parenting patterns change, so too can child support. The parenting plan spelled out in the divorce process typically details how much time each parent spends with their child or children. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way; if child custody changes, child support could be reallocated as well.
Family Changes Can Cause a Change in Child Support
If either spouse has a parent or loved one move into their home, it may impact their cost of living and lead to a desire to change support payments. Also, as children get older, a spouse might wish to change child support amounts. For example, when children enter school and daycare costs go away, the obligated parent may ask to pay less.
The family law courts in Pennsylvania, and especially those in Montgomery County and Bucks County, understand that life changes occur in custody and support situations. As a result, there may be a need to revisit child support arrangements. A family law attorney can work with you to review all factors for consideration before moving to change child support allocation in your domestic relations matters.
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The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances. The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.
Melissa M. Boyd has been certified as a Family Law Arbitrator by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.