The below information focuses on support disputes in Bucks County. Procedures vary between counties although the substantive law is the same in every county in the state. Support can be a very complex area of the law. It is a separate matter from your divorce and custody and will be determined independently. To begin the process, you either file a Support Complaint or a “Count” for support as part of your Divorce Complaint. If the request for Support is included in the Divorce Complaint, the court will do nothing to act on your request for support until you specifically as them to by filing a Motion for Conference. Your support order will back-date to the date you filed either a Support Complaint or the date you filed a Motion for Conference. This back-dating includes the accumulation of charges as well as credit for payments made.
It is important that we know everyone’s date of birth, social security number, place of employment, place of birth for the child and if there is any other support actions pending anywhere. If the child was not born during a marriage and if paternity was not acknowledged at the time of the child’s birth, the putative father has the right to request paternity testing. The parties can agree to a Support Stipulation without going to court. Only the Support Office can draft a Support Stipulation which will be accepted as an Order. If it is not entered as an Order, it is completely unenforceable.
If the parties do not agree to the terms of a Support Stipulation, one side or the other must request a Support Conference. There is no skipping the conference under any circumstances. A support conference is an informal meeting with the parties and a court support officer. No witnesses will be permitted in the room. Children are only to be brought if you are directed to bring them for purposes of paternity testing.
In Pennsylvania, support is determined by a formula which is primarily income-driven
At a support conference, the conference officer will review income information (as well as “earning capacity” arguments if appropriate) as well as a limited number of expenses. Generally, a person’s income for support is determined by taking their current income less payroll taxes, union dues and mandatory pension contributions. If a person is self-employed or unemployed, this becomes a much more complex problem.
If a person loses a job through no fault of their own, the court will usually only hold them to an earning capacity equal to their unemployment compensation. If a party is unemployed but not collecting unemployment compensation this becomes a much more complex issue. Expenses which impact a support order are mortgage and home equity loan payments (under certain circumstances), the cost of health insurance, daycare and tuition expenses and unreimbursed medical expenses. A party who is currently providing health insurance will be required to maintain that health insurance so long as it is available. This applies to spouse and children.
Both parties are expected to contribute to the cost of day care so that both parties can work
The custodial parent will be expected to pay the first $250 per year per child and self for unreimbursed medical, dental and eye care expenses. After that, both parties will be expected to contribute. Orthodontic and psychological expenses can be included but must be requested.
If the parties cannot reach an agreement at the conference, the conference officer will usually enter a temporary order and schedule the matter for a hearing with a judge. It usually takes four or more weeks to get the hearing. If you are scheduled for a hearing, on the morning of the hearing a conference officer will usually meet with the parties one last time to see if an agreement can be reached. If not, you will have a hearing with a judge.
There are innumerable other facets which can affect your support. This is just a brief overview of the highlights. For a confidential consultation, contact Kristine Michael today.