1. How Can I File for Support?
Each County in Pennsylvania has a Domestic Relations Office. In Blair County, it is located on the third floor of the new addition to the Courthouse. An online locator is available to find your county’s Domestic Relations Office. One of the first things a custodial parent should do when they become separated is to visit that office, and file for child support. Spouses can also seek support for themselves (spousal support).
2. Why Is it Important To File For Child Support?
Child Support will only be ordered from the date you file. If you wait, you cannot recover the support for that period of time. Some couples, when they separate, make temporary arrangements to make sure that the bills are paid, and the children’s needs are met. These arrangements often break down over time. Having a court order is the only way for the parent who depends on the support to make certain that it will be paid.
3. What Information Will I Need to Apply For Support?
When you apply, you will be asked for the name, address and social security number of the Defendant, along with his or her place of employment. If you don’t know all of this information, Domestic Relations can assist you. For example, they have a parent locator service to search for parents who may be trying to avoid support. You should also bring with you copies of any prior support orders from another jurisdiction, and any Protection from Abuse Orders.
4. Do I Have to Reveal My Address When I File For Support?
Ordinarily, the answer is yes – both parties addresses will appear on the support complaint. Where one party has a legitimate concern about their safety, particularly where there has been a Protection From Abuse Order, Domestic Relations can direct that addresses and other confidential information will not be given out or sent to the other party.
5. What Happens after I File For Support?
The initial papers are sent to the Defendant, along with a Notice of the first hearing, which is usually a conference in the Domestic Relations Office. Domestic Relations will also subpoena earnings information from each parties’ employer. At the Conference, the Domestic Relations Officer will obtain copies of paystubs and tax returns, and calculate a recommended amount of child support.
6. How Much Support Will Be Ordered?
There is a formula in the Support Rules. In most cases, the most important facts are the net (after tax) income received by the two parents. The theory is that most persons have less control over their income than their expenses; for that reason, a person’s expenses are not normally part of the calculation, unless they are unusually high, for reasons beyond their control. The formula also considers the cost of health insurance and daycare for the children.
If a person quits a job, without good cause, or is able to work but doesn’t have a job, support is based on the amount they are capable of earning. At a minimum, this is at least minimum wage.
An online child support estimator is available at Child Support Estimator
7. What If Paternity Is Disputed?
If paternity has not been established, the Defendant will be given an opportunity to admit or deny paternity at the first conference. If paternity is denied, DNA testing will be ordered. In most cases, this will give a clear answer to the question of who is the father.
8. What If He Doesn’t Pay?
In most cases, support is now paid through a wage attachment. This provides some assurance of regular payment. Problems can arise if the person paying support loses his or her job, or works under the table. If he doesn’t pay, there are a series of steps you can request from Domestic Relations, which can include a contempt of court hearing. Although it usually is a last resort, someone who has the ability to pay and refuses can be incarcerated.
9. Can We Agree That I’ll Have Full Custody in Exchange for Not Filing for Support?
This question gets asked quite often. The answer is that people can do what they want, but they should understand that this type of agreement cannot be enforced by either side. The right to be supported belongs to the children – the parents can’t sign it away. Children are also, except in unusual circumstances, encouraged to maintain a relationship with both parents.
10. How Does A Remarriage, Or A New Family Affect Child Support?
The spouse’s income is not normally relevant to the amount of child support, since she or he has no duty to support these children. If a person owes support for children living in two or more separate homes, and the combined amount of support is more than 50% of his or her income, an adjustment can be made in the amount that is ordered.