Child Support

High Income Child Support Cases Must Still Access The Reasonable Needs Of The Children

To avoid unduly large child support awards, trial judges calculating support obligations in high-income cases must assess the reasonable needs of the children, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled in a decision the plaintiff’s attorney called “historic.”

The court unanimously ruled in Hanrahan v. Bakker that the high-income child support guidelines found at Pa.R.C.P. 1910.16-3.1, which were adopted in 2010 and apply when both parties’ combined net income exceeds $30,000 per month, do not obviate the need for a discrete analysis regarding how much money is actually necessary to meet the reasonable needs of the children.

The ruling drew a distinction between the methodology for determining child support in standard income cases and the additional considerations that must be made in high-income cases.

Justice Max Baer, writing for the court, said that “because Rule 1910.16-3.1 is based upon an extrapolation of economic data establishing reasonable needs for children in standard income cases rather than actual economic data establishing reasonable needs for children in high income cases, a court should consider the particular children’s reasonable needs in applying that rule to fashion support awards in high income cases.”

“Specifically, a court is to conduct a separate reasonable needs analysis in the third step of the high income guidelines by assessing the deviation factors found in Rule 1910.16-5(b), in conjunction with the income and expense statements required in such cases,” Baer said. “In so doing, the court must make findings of fact on the record or in writing in making a final child support award.”

Reference: Zack Needles, Of the Law Weekly, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, Vol. XLI, No. 26, Tuesday, June 26, 2018, Hanrahan v. Bakker, PICS Case No. 18-0767

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