January 1, 2022 saw the changes made pursuant to Pennsylvania’s quadrennial review of child support go into effect. While most of the changes and updates were minor, there are some that may impact existing child support orders.
The largest change provides for across the board increases in the child support guideline calculations at all income levels. The rule change provides for an average increase at all income levels of 15% for one child, 16% for two children and 18% for additional children. Although, families with high income earners tended to see the largest increases.
Support orders for families with a combined net income between $25,000 and $30,000 saw the largest average increase for an order with one child at 26%. While two child families saw the largest average increase (26%) where combined net monthly income was between $20,000 and $25,000.
The increase stems from two changes to the child support rules. The first and primary change is an increase to account for higher costs for families. However, a less obvious change is that prior rules assumed that the party paying support had custody at least 30% of the time and provided a slight discount for that time. The newest guideline amounts removes this presumption resulting in a roughly 5% increase in support overall. This is important to note as the rules related to who is and who is not entitled to credit for custodial time have not changed. While the rules now state that a party must have 40% of custodial overnights to be entitled to a shared custody credit, this is a change in terminology only. The previous rule required a party to have custody 40% of the time, but time was calculated using the number of overnights each party had with the minor children.
Another important change affects families with a combined net monthly income of $30,000 and above. While families in this category also saw an increase in their support obligations, importantly, the rules have been updated to reflect the requirement that courts perform an analysis of reasonable needs of the minor children for such cases. The reasonable needs analysis first outlined in the 2018 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case Hanrahan v. Bakker, has been written more formally into the rules. It is also worth noting that while the rule change did not expand the reasonable needs analysis to spousal support and alimony pendente lite awards, it did expand the factors the court must consider in entering an order.
For individuals with existing child support orders, it is important to remember that these changes do not go into effect automatically. To implement any of the changes provided for in the rule change, parties need to file a Petition to Modify Support. Otherwise, the current amount will stay in place. The rule changes serve as the material change required for the filing of a Petition to Modify.
If you currently have a support order and wish to see how these changes may affect you, our team at Cozen O’Connor can help.