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CHILD SUPPORT

Who Must Pay Child Support?

    A non-custodial parent.

    The parent or individual with whom the child lives is known as the custodial parent. The parent without custody of the child, or with whom the child does NOT live, is known as the non-custodial parent.

    Both parents have a legal duty to support their child, which continues until the child is 18 years or when the child graduates from high school, whichever is later. It is presumed that the custodial parent is financially responsible for the child; therefore, only the non-custodial parent can be ordered to pay.

    The non-custodial parent is required to pay child support regardless of whether that parent is exercising custody or visitation. Also, a custodial parent cannot refuse visitation to the non-custodial parent just because support has not been paid.

    Even if the parents are not married, the non-custodial parent is required to pay child support. If the parents are unmarried when the child is born, the first step is to establish paternity (who is the father of the child). The parents can do this by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity form or by starting a court action with the Domestic Relations Section. Once the court determines paternity of the child, the child support action may proceed. Under Pennsylvania law, if a mother is married when her child is born, her husband is presumed to be the legal father, whether or not he is the biological father.

  1. Both parents have a legal duty to support their child, which continues until the child is 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later, unless otherwise ordered by the court.
  2.  

    Who Can Receive Support For A Child?

    Anyone who has custody of a child may receive support payments.

    For Example: a grandparent or relative with whom the child lives, as well as a parent.

     

    p align="left">How To Get Child Support?

    Fill out a Complaint at Domestic Relations

    To start a child support case, the custodial parent should go to the Domestic Relations office of the Court of Common Pleas for that parent’s county and fill out a complaint.

  3. • Once the complaint is filed, the Domestic Relations office will schedule a conference to try to help both sides to come to an agreement
  4. • If the parties cannot agree, a Master will conduct a hearing, usually at a later date, and issue a proposed order. At this hearing, the Master will hear testimony of the parents’ income and expenses and the child’s needs. Each parent may be represented by an attorney or proceed on their own.
  5. • If either party disagrees with the proposed order, he or she may file exceptions within (10) days to obtain a review by the Court. No additional testimony will be taken.

     

    How Is the Amount of Child Support Decided?

    By a formula that takes into account each party’s income, certain deductions and the number of children

    The amount of support a parent will have to pay is determined through a review of their income and assets, using the Pennsylvania Support guidelines, which will produce a suggested support amount. The amount can be increased or decreased by reviewing the parents’ expenses, the child(ren)’s needs, and the time each parent has custody of the child(ren). The support order can be appealed by either party.

    When can a support Order be changed

      A parent can petition the court for a review and modification of their child support order if they feel there has been a change in circumstance. Factors while may change child support are:

    • • Any changes in the parents’ expenses or income (which should be reported to the Domestic Relations Office immediately)
    • • A reduction in income and/or loss of job due to being laid off, downsizing or company closures (could reduce or suspend payments)
    • • Where the child has significant or continuing medical costs
    • • Daycare and/or medical insurance changes
    • • Where the parents are now living together
    • • Where the child’s living situation has changed (for instance, the child is living with someone else)
    • • Any other substantial changes of circumstance

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    How Support Is Enforced?

    By an Action for Contempt

    If a person does not comply with a child support order and the Court finds that the person otherwise has the income to comply, he or she may be fined or jailed or both. The Court can also order restitution and penalties. In some cases, the Court can suspend any business or occupational license the person has.

     

    Can the Non-Custodial Parent’s Wages be Attached to Pay the Support Order?

    Yes.

    The Court may require that the parent’s support payments be deducted by his or her employer and forwarded to Domestic Relations. Employers who fail to deduct the support payment may be subject to fine or imprisonment. In Pennsylvania, wage attachment is accomplished through an income withholding order.

    What is an income-withholding order?

    A court order that directs an employer to deduct from a noncustodial parent’s wages:

    1) current support; 2) amounts ordered on arrears; and 3) support related fees.

    In Pennsylvania, income-withholding is mandatory for all child support orders, except when: (1) the obligor is not behind in payment of support in an amount equal to or more than one month's support payment; and (2) if the court finds that there is good cause not to require immediate income withholding; or (3) a written agreement is reached between the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent, which provides for an alternative arrangement. An income-withholding order is not used for self-employed noncustodial parents. The court will issue a mandatory income-withholding order if arrears accrue in an amount equal to one month's support obligation even if good cause has been shown or there is a written agreement not to impose income-withholding.

    p align="left">What about Medical Insurance for the child?

    The Court deals with health insurance for the children in every child support case.

    • If one of the parents can provide health insurance for the child(ren) at a reasonable cost through their employment, he or she may be ordered to do so.
    • If both parents can provide health insurance through work, then the parent who does not have custody may be ordered to get the health insurance.
    • If neither parent can provide health insurance at a reasonable cost at work, the Court may order one or both of the parents to get other health insurance for the children, if this is possible at a reasonable cost.
    • The Court may also direct how much uncovered medical expenses each parent must pay.

    What if I Receive Public Assistance

    You may be required to file for Child Support

    Prior to the receipt of cash assistance, a custodial parentMUST cooperate in identifying an absent parent, establishing paternity and establishing a court order for child support.

    If a parent or other caretaker fails to establish paternity or in establishing, modifying or enforcing a child support order that parent or caretaker will be removed from the cash assistance unless he or she has good cause.

    If a person is receiving public assistance, any child support payments are paid to the Department of Public Welfare. A partial amount of the payment, called a pass-through, may be returned to the custodian parent or caregiver.

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    What is Good Cause for not Filing for Support

    • • Domestic Violence—Good cause is found when pursuing support would place an individual at risk of further domestic violence, or make it more difficult for an individual to escape domestic violence.
    • • Rape or Incest—Good cause is found when the child was conceived as the result of rape or incest.
    • • Adoption—Good cause is found when court proceedings for the adoption of the child are pending, or the applicant/recipient of support is working with an agency to determine whether a child should be placed for adoption and the parent has not been working with the agency for more than three months.
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