During the last week of June, 2008 the Supreme Court’s Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee published for comment by the bar and the public at large new guidelines for support of children. The comment period is open until October 31, 2008 and comments are to be directed to the Committee’s counsel, Patricia Miles at 5035 Ritter Road, Suite 700, Mechanicsburg, PA or, via email to patricia.miles@pacourts.us.

The most significant change proposed is to take the guideline formula from a maximum of $20,000 a month net to $30,000. Even after that level the application of an expense based analysis under Melzer v. Witsberger, is avoided through application of a formula intended to yield consistent results.

Looking at the numbers, the most significant change is for families with more than one child. The proposed guidelines appear to conclude that the economies of scale from having multiple children was overstated in past revisions. Thus, while support for one child seems to scarcely change at most income levels, there are changes upward where 2-4 children are involved. We have not analyzed these changes for families with 5 or more children because we see very few cases of that kind in our practice.

We looked at the proposed guidelines and compared them with those adopted in the Fall, 2005. Our chart reflects the results


Children                1                2               3                4 


$5,000                +1.7%        +7%       +11%       +11%

$10,000                 0%          +6.5%    +11%       +11%

$15,000              +2.5%        +11%     +15%       +15%

$20,000              (7.5%)       (4.0%)     +12%      +12%


[Editor’s Note: Please excuse the form of the chart, as formatting is difficult in the blog.]

What makes these changes noteworthy is comparison with consumer price index data for urban consumers in the Northeast US (which includes PA). When the guidelines were last published in September, 2005 the CPI stood at 210.8. The CPI in May, 2008 is reported to be 230.1. This is an increase of 8.4% over 32 months or 3.15% per annum. What could be of especial concern is the fact that inflation in the past year rose 3.7% and thus far in 2008 it appears to be moving along at a 6% clip as energy and food prices gallop higher.

We must stress that these guideline are in circulation for comment only and are subject to revision by the Rules Committee and ultimately, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. But the opportunity for public comment will end in October and we believe it provident to afford our friends and clients the opportunity to make their views known to Ms. Miles for circulation to the committee. Once adopted it can be expected that the ultimate product will presumptively govern child support decisions for the next four years.