How Does Being on Unemployment Affect My Child Support Obligation in Pennsylvania?


Under Pennsylvania law, a noncustodial parent is usually required to make child support payments to a custodial parent, based on respective incomes. If a noncustodial parent becomes unemployed, the obligation for child support remains, unless and until the court agrees to change the required payment amounts. Failure to pay can have financial and legal consequences.

Award Amount

Under Pennsylvania guidelines, a court determines child support obligations based on equal treatment for both parents. This means that the calculation is based mainly on the post-tax income of the two parents. The principle of the calculation is that the amount should be based on a reasonable combination of the custodial parent's needs and the noncustodial parent's ability to pay.


A person's child support obligations don't automatically cease if he becomes unemployed. The parent must petition the court to have the support amount either reduced or suspended. If the court agrees to such a change, it can only be backdated to the date of the petition.

Failure to Pay

If a parent becomes unemployed and stops paying child support without court permission, it can affect her credit ratings. If a credit records agency asks, the court is required to provide details of any unpaid child support payments totaling more than $1,000.

Alternative Payment Sources

Normally, a court can "attach" wages if a person is behind on payments. This means the court can order an employer to deduct the relevant amounts from the parent's paychecks and pass them on.

If a person is unemployed and is delinquent with payments, the court has similar rights to order deductions from payments of unemployment benefits, federal tax refunds or winnings from the state lottery. It's also possible that a court could order the parent to sell personal assets or to place a lien on the assets, meaning the court could take possession if the payments remain outstanding.

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