For those of you who practice in this area or are “regulars” in the child support system, you know that every four years, the statewide child support guidelines are due for an update. The purpose is to try to keep pace with the economic times and the cost of raising children. For the 2008 and 2012 revisions, the Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee retained Dr. Jane Venohr of the Center for Policy Research in Denver, CO. to compile economic data. Dr. Venohr is again involved in the 2016 process.
The Rules Committee published its proposed guidelines on April 21. For now, they are subject to comment from any interested individual and should be directed through Bruce Ferguson, Esquire (firstname.lastname@example.org) as counsel to the Committee. Once the comment period closes, a final version will be sent to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for its review and decision. Because the guidelines typically do not present policy issues, the Court has usually adopted the proposal without amendment.
The current draft guidelines make no substantive changes to the procedures by which a support order is established or modified. At the same time there is another proposed substantive modification to Pa. R.C.P. 1910-16-4(d) which may be adopted by the Supreme Court known as Recommendation 146.
Generally, the news is that costs have increased and so have the guidelines. The self-support reserve has increased 5.1% to $981. Support for children has also increased. Using two children for illustrative purposes, the amount of support to be allocated between the parents looks like this:
Combined income 2012 Proposed
5000 1369 1415
10000 1981 2044
15000 2532 2586
20000 2997 3052
25000 3425 3492
30000 3836 3902
Above 30,000 11.6% 11.8%
Generally the increase ranges from 3.3% at the lower end to 1.6% at the top. The data analyzed to arrive at these values comes from September, 2015 data. During this period the CPI for all Urban Consumers in the Northeast rose from 243.323 to 252.922. One could suggest from this that the guidelines are not keeping pace. But then the guidelines do not include the costs of health insurance and related expenses, which are allocated by net income “on top” of the guideline amount. Needless to say, a major driver of consumer prices is the cost of health insurance and related care. The same can be said for day care costs, which also travel outside the guideline amount.