As a Pittsburgh divorce attorney, I occasionally encounter situations where divorced parents each have primary custody of one or more of their children. For example, maybe Dad has primary custody of his teenage son while Mom has primary custody of the three younger children. Although there isn’t anything particularly remarkable about this custodial situation, the issue can become more complex when it comes to child support. When each parent is a primary custodian, who pays child support?
In the above situation, the Divorce Code dictates that the Court conducts two separate child support calculations. The Court would begin by determining the parties’ incomes and using those numbers to determine how much money Mom would owe Dad if their only child were the teenage son in Dad’s custody. Then, the Court would do the reverse, calculating how much money Dad would owe to Mom if the three youngsters were the only children. Finally, the Court offsets those two numbers and the parent with the larger support obligation will be ordered to pay the difference.
Although it sounds fairly straight forward, it is sometimes hard for a parent to understand how, as a primary custodian, he or she still has to pay support to his or her ex. In our example above, if Mom has a great job and makes significantly more money than Dad, it is likely that even though she is taking care of three children, and Dad only takes care of one, she might still owe a monthly support obligation to Dad. It is important for parents to understand that this system is not in place to punish one parent for making more money, but instead functions to make sure that the children can expect the same quality of life when spending time at either Mom or Dad’s house.