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What are the Pennsylvania guidelines for child support in high-income families?

Understanding Pennsylvania's Child Support Guidelines for High-Income Families

When it comes to child support, the state of Pennsylvania takes into account the best interest of the child and the financial situation of both parents. While the guidelines for determining child support are generally consistent across various income levels, certain complexities arise when dealing with high-income families. In this article, we will explore the specific considerations and guidelines that apply to high-income households in the Keystone State.

Defining High-Income in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law does not state a precise income threshold that qualifies as 'high-income.' However, cases where combined parental income exceeds $30,000 per month are typically subject to special scrutiny. The standard child support formula is applied up to this income level; beyond that, additional factors are considered.

Application of the Support Guidelines

The Pennsylvania child support guidelines use an 'Income Shares Model' where both parents' incomes are combined to determine the total child support obligation. For high-income families, this can mean extensive calculations and considerations. The court will first apply the basic support guidelines to the first $30,000 of combined monthly net income. For earnings above this threshold, the court has discretion and may consider several factors to ensure that the child support award is fair and reasonable.

Additional Considerations for High-Income Families

In high-income cases, courts may look at:

This comprehensive approach ensures that any child support awarded reflects what the child would have received had the family unit remained intact.

High-Income Child Support Disputes

Disputes over child support amounts can be particularly contentious in high-income cases. Courts may require detailed financial disclosures and sometimes employ expert witnesses to assess lifestyles and needs. In some instances, historical cases such as Melzer v. Witsberger, which established a method for determining additional awards above guideline levels, may influence decisions.

Modifications and Deviations

For high-income families, modifications to existing support orders may occur if there is a significant change in circumstances. Additionally, courts can deviate from guideline amounts if they find it would be unjust or inappropriate under certain conditions.


Pennsylvania's child support guidelines aim to ensure all children receive adequate support reflecting their parents' financial abilities. For high-income families, while basic principles apply, courts have broader discretion to consider additional factors that impact a fair outcome for the child involved.