Bucks County Child Support
Make Sure The Numbers Add Up
There’s no two ways about it – it’s expensive to raise and support children. That’s why Pennsylvania has a formula to determine child support.
Whether you will be receiving or paying child support it is important to make sure the numbers are correct and fair. Our Bucks County Child Support Lawyers know the intricacies of the child support formula and can guide you to the right result for you and your children.
Schedule a consultation now and we’ll make sure the numbers add up for you.
Who Can File for Child Support in Pennsylvania?
Any person who is entitled to receive child support (“Obligee”) or any person who may be obligated to pay child support (“Obligor”) may begin a support action in Bucks County. Typically, the Obligee will be the person who files, but sometimes an Obligor will file to eliminate any uncertainty about the amount he/she will be ordered to pay.
Who Can Receive Child Support in Pennsylvania?
To receive child support, the Obligee must be the primary custodian (the parent who has more than 50% of the child’s overnights) or a parent who has equal custody AND is the lower earning spouse.
A support action begins when a person files a Support Complaint with the Bucks County Office of Domestic Relations. This can be done by completing an online questionnaire/complaint through the state support website, by meeting with an intake officer at the Courthouse, or by preparing and filing a Complaint for Support.
The Bucks County Child Support Process
After the Support Complaint is filed, the Bucks County Office of Domestic Relations will schedule a support conference which usually occurs 4-6 weeks after the Complaint is filed. Parties and attorneys, if hired, are required to attend the support conference in front of a conference officer. At the conference, if there are two attorneys in the case, the conference officer may choose to only meet with the attorneys. During that meeting, each attorney will provide the conference officer the relevant income information for each of the parties, and the conference officer will calculate the proposed support amount. If the parties agree with the amount calculated by the officer, the officer will prepare an order that day for the parties to sign. That order will be forwarded to the Judge for final signature, and then the Office of Domestic Relations will implement and process the order. If no agreement is reached that day, then the conference officer will schedule the matter for a hearing with a Judge, which usually occurs 4-6 weeks after the conference.
Bucks County Support actions are decided pursuant to state-mandated guidelines. These state guidelines are income-based, and both parties’ incomes are used to calculate the child support amount owed to an Obligee. A person’s income includes all money that person receives from any source. For most people their income is from employment and any income they receive from spousal support or alimony pendente lite. If a person is not working to his/her fullest ability, the other person can ask the Court to assign an “earning capacity” to that person to use in the child support calculations.
How the Court Decides Child Support in Bucks County, Pennsylvania
The child support guidelines assume that if the parties lived together and pooled their income, they would spend a certain amount of money toward the support of their children. The guidelines then apportion each person’s support responsibility based on each person’s proportionate share of the joint income. For example, if the parties jointly earn $10,000 per month, with one party earning $6,000 per month and the other party earning $4,000 per month, the person who earns $6,000 is responsible for 60% of the guideline support amount because he/she earns 60% of the combined income. Whichever party is the Obligor will pay his/her proportionate share of the guideline amount to the other party.
If the Obligor has “substantial partial physical custody”, which amounts to at least 6 overnights out of 14 overnights, the Obligor’s support amount will be reduced to account for that substantial physical custody. This amount is further reduced if an Obligor has equal physical custody (7 overnights out of 14). Most people assume that if there is equal custody, there is no support, which is not accurate. The person with higher income in an equal custody situation will still have a support obligation, but that obligation is reduced.
Support covers basic living necessities like shelter, food, and clothing. Additional expenses not covered directly by the support order are daycare/childcare costs, health insurance, unreimbursed medical expenses/bills, and in some instances private school tuition. The Court also has the discretion to apportion any other expenses, if warranted by the specific facts of the case.
What about Extra Expenses for Children (i.e. daycare, health insurance, medical bills)?
All additional expenses for the children who receive support will be paid in proportion to the parties’ incomes. In our above example, one party is responsible for 60% of the additional expenses and the other party is responsible for 40% of the additional expenses. Whoever pays the expense will receive credit through the support action. If the person receiving support pays for the health insurance or daycare, then the Obligor’s proportionate share of those expenses will be added to the support order to reimburse the Obligee for the Obligor’s share of that expense. However, if the person paying support pays health insurance or daycare, then the Obligee’s share of those amounts are subtracted from the support order to account for the Obligee’s proportionate share of the expense being reimbursed to the Obligor.
Unreimbursed medical expenses are similarly shared in proportion to each party’s income, but only after the Obligee pays the first $250 per year per person covered under the support order.
How Child Support is Paid in Pennsylvania
After the Court determines the support amount, the Office of Domestic Relations will send the information about the support order to the Pennsylvania State Collection and Disbursement Unit (PASCDU) to implement the order. The vast majority of the time, a person pays his/her support obligation through “wage attachment”. PASCDU sends a separate Court Order to the Obligor’s employer telling the employer how much to collect from the Obligor’s wages each pay period. The employer then sends that amount to PASCDU, who then transfers the amount to the Obligee. Most Obligees choose to set up direct deposit to receive their support directly into their bank account, and they receive their support payments on more or less the same pay cycle as the Obligor.
If a person is self-employed, then PASCDU will not issue a wage attachment order, and that person will pay his/her support to PASCDU who then issues the payment to the Obligee.
If parties want to pay support directly between themselves, the Office of Domestic Relations will not enter the support order in its office, and that office will not monitor the case for non-payment. However, the support agreement can be recognized as an Order by filing the written agreement with the Court to be signed by the assigned Judge.
What Happens When Child Support Payments Are Not Made?
If a person does not make the payments he/she is ordered to pay, that person can be found in Contempt of the Order. The Office of Domestic Relations can pursue automatic remedies for non-payment, if the Order is being administered by that office. The Office can intercept tax refunds, suspend drivers’ licenses, hunting licenses, and other licenses. The Office can also file a Petition for Contempt asking the Judge to issue fines, order the non-paying party to a jail term, or to pay a lump sum toward any unpaid amount. In addition, the person receiving support can file a private Petition for Contempt to address any issues relating to the non-payment of support, and ask the Court to employ any or all of the above remedies to ensure payment of the support obligation.
Whatever support issues arise in your matter, you can be certain that the Attorneys at Cooley & Handy have the necessary experience to guide you through the entire process.
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