Child Support in Pennsylvania
All parents have a legal obligation to “Support” their children.
The laws in Pennsylvania regarding the proper calculation and implementation of Child Support are complicated. For assistance with filing a Child Support action in Chester County, please contact my office. The parent who has primary physical custody of the child(ren) may exercise their right to seek Child Support from the other parent. The process of filing a Child Support Complaint begins at the Domestic Relations Office. The Domestic Relations Office is the part of the Court system which schedules and manages Support cases.
The proper amount of Child Support is calculated according to the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines. Generally speaking, the Support Guidelines look to the combined net incomes of the parties in order to determine the amount of support a child requires. When the income of the parties is easily ascertainable via paystubs and annual W-2 forms, then it is relatively straightforward to calculate the proper amount of Child Support. However, where either party has income that is not readily ascertainable, which fluctuates, or which is less than it should be, then the process for calculating Child Support is not as simple. When there are complicated issues relative to a parties income, then it is important to have a competent attorney review the facts of the case so that an informed decision can be made.
Some Common Questions About Child Support in Pennsylvania
What happens after a child support complaint is filed?
When a Support Complaint is filed, the parties will be Ordered to attend an “Office Conference” at the Domestic Relations Office. The Conference is an informal setting where no testimony is taken and there is no Court Reporter. A Conference Officer oversees the proceeding and gathers information regarding the parties’ income. The Conference Officer will usually review the parties’ paystubs and previous tax returns. The Officer will also look at evidence regarding additional expenses for the children such as extra-curricular activities, private school and summer camp expenses. The Conference Officer will apply the child support guidelines based on the evidence presented at the Conference and calculate a Child Support Order. If both parties are satisfied with the Order, then it is signed by a Judge and implemented as a Court Order. However, if either party is not satisfied with the Child Support Order produced by the Conference Officer, then that party may ask that the case be scheduled for a “Master’s Hearing.” At this Hearing, the Master will listen to formal testimony and a Court Reporter will make a Record of the Hearing (depending on the County in which your matter is heard). After listening to testimony and any arguments made by counsel, the Master will enter a Support Order. If either party disagrees with the Order produced by the Master, then they may file “Exceptions” to the Master’s Recommendation. Upon the filing of Exceptions, the matter will be submitted to a Judge. The Judge will review the Master’s Recommendations, and based on either further Hearing and/or arguments of the attorneys (depending on which County your matter is heard), the Judge will decide whether to uphold the Master’s Recommendation.
How much child support am I going to have to pay?
The amount of child support one is obligated to pay is not arbitrary. There are Pennsylvania statutes that set forth a calculation that is used to determine how much a child support obligation is going to be. The most important determining factors are the respective income of both of the parents. The support calculation is complicated, and if you are facing a child support obligation you should consult with a competent attorney who can advise you on what to expect.