Chester County Divorce Attorney Handles Child Support & Spousal Support in Pennsylvania
How is support calculated in a Pennsylvania divorce?
When clients seek our help, support payments are often one of their main concerns. At Morton Family Law, our West Chester attorneys can help you understand spousal support, alimony pendente lite (APL) and child support. We pursue a balanced approach and select a course of action only after a careful weighing of all your options.
In Pennsylvania, there is a difference between alimony and spousal support: Alimony payments are temporary and made before the divorce is final, while spousal support payments begin after the divorce is final. Support payments including APL, spousal support and child support are in large part determined by guidelines issued by the court. The guidelines' goal is to ensure that the children of divorced parents receive the same proportion of the parents' resources that they would have received if the couple had not separated. While the guidelines take many factors into consideration, they emphasize:
- The net incomes of the parties
- The earning capacity of the parties
Divorcing parents may reach a private agreement or file with the courts to establish support agreements. Regardless of the process, parents must make arrangements to provide health insurance for their children. Additionally, if the custodial spouse works outside the home, the paying spouse is typically required to cover a portion of the childcare expenses.
If the parties are unable to come to a private child support or spousal support agreement, the party seeking support is required to file a petition with the Domestic Relations Office (DRO). About four weeks after filing, a conference is held where an officer of the court attempts mediation to reach an agreement based upon the parties' financial information and the Pennsylvania support guidelines. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, they attend a formal hearing four to six weeks following the conference where support issues are resolved.
Can support agreements be changed?
In Pennsylvania divorces, there is a distinction between modifying an agreement and appealing an agreement. An appeal occurs when you disagree with the support order from the outset. If you wish to appeal a child support order, it must be filed within 20 days of the date of the order. A request for a spousal or child support modification arises after a previously acceptable support agreement becomes unacceptable. As a general rule, most support agreements may be modified, although some spousal support agreements are constructed as non-modifiable agreements. However, even modifiable agreements cannot be changed unilaterally: If your former spouse doesn't agree to a modification, you must petition the court to change the agreement by written motion, and that motion must show a significant change of circumstances. Significant changes in circumstances to a child support order can include:
- Amendments to the support guidelines
- Increase in income
- Decrease in income
- Emancipation of a child
- A newly formed private agreement
- Special physical, emotional or educational needs of the child
What do I do if my former spouse refuses to pay?
Support enforcement, including child support enforcement, is a serious matter in Pennsylvania. Two of the goals of Pennsylvania's family law courts are protecting the best interests of the child and ensuring the dependent spouse is provided for properly. Pennsylvania, therefore, does not tolerate nonpayment of child or spousal support. Consequences for failing to make payments include:
- Civil contempt
- Up to a six-month jail term
- Up to $500 in fines
- Up to six months' probation
- Seizure of personal injury or workers' compensation awards
- Seizure of tax refunds
- Denial of a passport
- Liens against real property
- Publication of your name in newspapers
- Seizure of bank accounts
A West Chester spousal or child support lawyer can advocate for your interests to secure the support to which you and your children are entitled.
Contact us today to better understand support agreements in Pennsylvania & Chester County
At Morton Family Law, we are committed to pursuing a balanced approach to spousal and child support that protects your goals and interests, as well as those of your children. To schedule your appointment, please call us at 888-698-1787 or contact us online.