What Is The Child Support Law In Pennsylvania?
Child support is a parent’s court-ordered monetary support that is intended to be used to help with the costs of raising a child. Child support is a payment ordered when two parents are no longer living together, whether separated or divorced. The intent of child support is to provide a child with adequate financial assistance from both parents, whether the child is living with that parent or not. Child support may be ordered even in instances where a parent does not have contact with his or her child, unless that parent has legally terminated their parental rights with the permission of both the court and the other parent. In such instances parental rights will only be terminated if there is someone taking over the rights, such as a step-parent through an adoption.
In Pennsylvania each County has a Domestic Relations Section that is responsible for the processing of child support claims and the entry of support orders. In Pennsylvania, child support obligations normally last until the child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever comes later; however, child support can continue past the age of 18 and graduation if the child has certain physical or mental conditions that require continued support. There is no obligation for continuing support for college in Pennsylvania.
Questions Related To Child Support In PA
A number of questions can arise related to the topic of child support. It’s important to everyone involved that the child support ordered by the court is both fair and accurate. Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions people have about child support.
How Much Child Support Does One Pay?
The courts of Pennsylvania determine child support amounts using the Support Guidelines, which are a set of rules promulgated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court pursuant to the support law set out by the Pennsylvania Legislature.
Child support amounts are calculated using a formula based on the income of both parties. The combined net monthly incomes of the parties are used to determine the base amount of support for the number of children involved. Each party is then responsible for a percentage of this amount based upon a percentage of each of their incomes. After the base amount is determined other factors such as daycare expenses, the cost of medical insurance, any Social Security benefits the child may be receiving, and the living arrangements of the children are used to adjust the amount upward or downward. Once the terms for child support are initially set there will be no automatic review and the support amount can be modified only upon a change in circumstances for one of the parties such as a new job, a raise, a change in custody or the loss of a job. The support guidelines are updated every four years and these updates are also considered to be a change of circumstances that warrants a review.
Can Child Support Be Dropped?
Yes, if both parties agree there is no requirement that a support order be entered through the courts. Parties can make agreements outside of Domestic Relations and never enter the court system. Likewise, if the parties decide to drop support after it has been entered they can do that too, as long as they both agree. However, if a support order does not go through the Domestic Relations Section, the courts cannot enforce the payments or collect the support.
Child support orders through Domestic Relations are collected by the State through wage attachments and collected directly from employers, if the party is employed. If a party fails to pay their support, Domestic Relations has the ability to enforce the orders through a number of means such as seizing tax refunds and suspending driver’s licenses or hunting and fishing licenses. Ultimately, a party can be sent to jail for their failure to pay child support.
In addition, there is no obligation for payment of back support before the date of that a party files for support. So, for example, if parents are separated for a year without a support order and one parent files for support after that year, the support will only begin from the date of filing, not the date of separation.
What Does The Child Support Process In PA Look Like?
Typically these are the steps the child support process in PA follows:
- The person seeking child support files a Complaint for Support through the Domestic Relations Section.
- A conference is scheduled to determine the amount of support due based upon the Support Guidelines.
- Conferences are held before a Conference Officer. These Conference Officers are not Judges or lawyers but are hired by the County to retrieve all the necessary information and determine the support amount using the Support Guidelines.
- Parties are required to bring proof of their income to the Conference in the form of pay stubs and tax returns.
- After the Conference the parties have 20 days to appeal the decision of the Conference Officer. If they appeal the decision the case will go before a Judge or a Support Master, depending on the County.
Read more on child support guidelines here.
Contact Colgan & Associates To Be Your Family Lawyer Today
If you or someone you know is going through a separation or divorce and has questions related to child support, the best thing to do is seek professional legal advice first. Don’t delay having this conversation!
The earlier you are informed of Pennsylvania’s unique child support laws and how they pertain to your situation, the better equipped you will be to fight for a fair and adequate division of financial support for your child or children. Call us at (717) 790-2048 for a no obligation free phone consultation.