Monday, October 25, 2021
The Pennsylvania Superior Court helped clarify what warrants a deviation from the child support guidelines in the recent matter of Thompson v. Thompson, 2021.
The support order entered in favor of the father was according to the standard Pennsylvania child support guidelines based on the respective incomes of the parents. The mother appealed this order to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
On appeal, the mother argued that the trial court erred in not granting her a deviation (downward) from the Pennsylvania child support guidelines. Per 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 4322(a), deviations from the child support guidelines are permitted for “unusual needs, extraordinary expenses and other factors …” Similarly, Pa.R.C.P. 19101-16-5(b)(1) says “the trier of fact shall consider unusual needs and unusual fixed obligations …”
The mother argued that “unusual” should refer to the “amount” of her expenses as well as a more obvious definition meaning “weird, bizarre or unheard of …” In other words, her contention was that if a particular expense an obligor has to pay is particularly large as compared to her income, or result in the obligor living paycheck-to-paycheck, then, the mother asserted, this should be considered “unusual.”
[T]he court first noted that there is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support derived from the Pennsylvania child support guidelines is correct, and in reviewing the support order at issue in this case, the court “discerned nothing unjust or inappropriate …”
The court rejected the mother’s novel definition of the word unusual. The court believed that the mother’s interpretation would undermine the point of the guidelines, and result in the case-by-case analysis for support that the guidelines were designed and purposed to obviate.
This does not mean, of course, that deviations for unusual needs and expenses would or could never be allowed, but the mother did not present any such need or expenses.
Read more here.