Both fathers and mothers have the responsibility to support their children. In determining the financial obligation of the parents to pay child support, the Court will review the earnings, earning capacity and the needs of each parent along with the needs of the child. The Court may also consider factors such as parent's physical disability, or if one parent is caring for young children at home, or has multiple families to support.
If the parent who does not have custody of the child is voluntarily paying child support and the other parent is comfortable with this arrangement, the support obligation can continue as a private matter between the parties. However, if there is difficulty with the child support responsibility, the parent who has the children the majority of the time can petition the local Domestic Relations Office for a Support Order. In a situation where the parents equally share custody time with the children, the lower wage earning parent can petition for a Support Order. At a support intake conference, the Support Officer will review the parties' incomes, along with Pennsylvania guidelines for support, in an attempt to have the parties reach an agreement for appropriate support. If no agreement can be reached, the Support Officer will recommend an order to the court which either party can subsequently appeal. This support obligation may include the requirement for one or both parents to maintain health insurance coverage for the child or to pay a portion of the child's uninsured medical expenses. The Court may also consider issues such as private or parochial school tuition, day care costs and extracurricular activities. Pursuant to a Federal Law, if the support is paid through the court, the wages of the noncustodial parent are automatically attached, unless the parties agree to do otherwise. In the case of a self-employed individual, if they do not pay their support obligation, they can be held in contempt, fined and/or jailed.
Child support can always be modified according to a change in the parties' financial circumstances and the child's needs. The obligation to pay child support usually stops when the child reaches the age of 18 and graduates from high school. However, the support obligation may continue if the child is physically or mentally disabled and is unable to support himself or herself. 3/11
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