The Domestic Relations child and spousal support guidelines deserve special mention here. Talk about a one-size-fits-all (or none) solution! The PA support guidelines are based on both parents’ net monthly incomes, with virtually no consideration for the parents’ or children’s actual expenses or needs. The guidelines are necessary for deciding the sheer volume of support cases throughout the state, because the available conference officers don’t have the time or resources to tailor support solutions for each family. But that doesn’t mean the support guidelines are the logical solution for all families.

The support guidelines are a default rule to be used if the parties can’t reach an agreement. There’s no magic to the guideline formulas. Child support is based on statewide statistics. Spousal support and alimony pendente lite are based on a formula. Just because they exist doesn’t mean they’re right for everybody. If the guidelines changed drastically tomorrow, would those new guidelines suddenly be right for everybody instead of today’s guidelines? I don’t think the new formulas would be any more “correct” than the old formulas.

I suggest using the domestic relations guidelines (and the domestic relations office, for that matter) only as a last resort, if you’re absolutely unable to reach an agreement. I’ve seen many clients spinning through the revolving door of the domestic relations office, attending one conference and court hearing after another, steadily and surely increasing the level of animosity between the parties and the amount of money they spend on attorneys’ fees, without much to show for their efforts.

In my opinion, parents, spouses or partners are much better off reaching a mutually acceptable support agreement based on their incomes, expenses, needs and unique circumstances instead of using the one-size-fits-all guidelines. This is not meant in any way as a derogatory comment on the hard-working individuals who work in the domestic relations offices. I admire the work they do and I’m very glad they do it. I just think they should have less work.

If you would like to discuss the use of domestic relations guidelines in central Pennsylvania, including Hershey, Harrisburg, Carlisle and surrounding areas, please contact me.