How to Calculate Child Support Payments in Pennsylvania

Learn how to calculate child support in Pennsylvania, when the amount of support may be different than what’s calculated under the state’s guidelines, and how to apply for, collect, and modify child support.

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

Pennsylvania has child support guidelines that parents and judges use to calculate the right amount of support in a particular case. The guidelines are based on the assumption that children of separated or divorced parents should receive the same amount of financial support as they would if their parents were still together.

How to Calculate Child Support Under Pennsylvania's Child Support Guidelines

To calculate the amount of support under Pennsylvania's current child support guidelines, you can use the official Pennsylvania Child Support Estimator.

Pennsylvania's guidelines take into account many factors, including:

  • both parents' income
  • the number of children who need to be supported
  • health insurance expenses for the children
  • work-related child care expenses
  • alimony payments
  • union dues
  • non-voluntary retirement payments, and
  • the total number of overnights the children spend with each parent.

Learn more about child custody and child support in Pennsylvania, including what gets counted as income when calculating support.

(Pa.R.Civ.P. Nos. 1910.16-1-1910.16–7 (2024).)

Are Other Child Support Calculators Accurate?

Watch out for websites with so-called child support calculators for Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that these calculators are accurate and up-to-date. Pennsylvania updates its child support guidelines regularly, and you usually can't tell whether any of these websites have kept up with the latest changes.

It's best to stick with the official state calculator to get the most accurate amount of child support you may pay or receive. Be aware, however, that this will be an estimate. As explained below, the judge may order a different amount in your case.

When Child Support May Be Different than the Guidelines Calculation

Pennsylvania judges typically must order the amount of support calculated by the guidelines. Still, judges can deviate when the guideline amount is inappropriate.

When deciding whether to deviate, judges must consider:

  • a household's unusual needs and unusual fixed obligations
  • other household income
  • the child's age
  • the parents' relative assets and liabilities
  • medical expenses not covered by insurance
  • the standard of living of the child and the parents, and
  • other relevant factors, including the child's best interests.

If the judge deviates from the guidelines the judge must explain the justification for the deviation.

(Pa.R.Civ.P. Nos. 1910-16.1, 1910.16.5 (2024).)

How to Apply for Child Support in Pennsylvania

If you're filing for divorce in Pennsylvania, you can request child support as part of that process. You can—and parents often do you—agree on an amount of child support as part of a divorce settlement. You'll have to submit your agreement for a judge to approve.

Each Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas has a Domestic Relations Section (DRS) that provides child support services. You can apply for child support at your local DRS. If you aren't married to your child's other parent, the DRS can help you establish paternity and then apply for support.

Each county has its own child support procedures and forms. To learn more about how things work in your county, check out or talk to a lawyer.

How to Collect Child Support in Pennsylvania

The Department of Human Services, Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) helps collect child support payments in Pennsylvania. BCSE offers an online tool parents can use to pay and receive support.

If you're having trouble collecting support payments, your local DRS can enforce child support orders using one or more of the following measures:

How to Change the Amount of Child Support

You can ask a judge to change the amount of support you pay or receive each month whenever there's been a "material and substantial" change in circumstances since your last order, such as:

  • you've lost your job or your income has decreased
  • the other parent's income has increased
  • your child care expenses have increased
  • your custody arrangement has changed, or
  • your family size has changed.

You also have a right to ask the DRS to review your support order once every three years or whenever circumstances have changed since your last order.

(Pa.R.Civ.P. No. 1910.19 (2024).)

Getting Help With Child Support

Calculating child support is complicated. The BCSE publishes a Child Support Handbook that provides general information about how Pennsylvania's child support program works. You can also call the Child Support Helpline at 1-800-932-0211.

If you and your co-parent can't agree on child custody, support, or both, you might need a lawyer's help. An experienced lawyer can answer your questions, help you negotiate an agreement that works for you and your child, and advocate for you in court if it comes to that.

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