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Navigating Child Support in Pennsylvania: Everything You Need to Know

Applying for Child Support in Pennsylvania

As a parent, providing for your child’s basic needs, such as food and shelter, is important. However, in cases where one parent is absent or cannot afford to meet these needs, child support comes in handy.

Child support is a court-ordered payment that a noncustodial parent must make to the custodial parent to assist in meeting the child’s financial and developmental needs. In Pennsylvania, applying for child support is relatively easy.

Heres what you need to know.

Applying for Child Support

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) is responsible for ensuring that parents provide financial support for their children. To apply for child support in Pennsylvania, you need to visit your local Domestic Relations Office (DRO) or complete an application online.

The online application is free, and it’s available 24/7. For DRO applications, you will need to pay a processing fee of $25, which is non-refundable.

When completing the application, you must provide necessary information such as your contact information, employment information, your child’s information, and the other parent’s information. The other parent is also required to fill out a separate application form if they want to seek child support.

Establishing Paternity

Establishing paternity in Pennsylvania is crucial when applying for child support. Paternity is the legal acknowledgment of the biological father of a child.

The Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) is a legal document that two unmarried individuals sign to establish paternity. The document must be signed voluntarily and is only valid when the mother and father of the child sign it.

The AOP can be signed at the hospital at the time of birth or at a later date at the DRO. The form can also be obtained through the Pennsylvania Department of Health or other community organizations.

Determining Child Support Obligation

The Pennsylvania child support system uses the

Income Shares Model to determine child support obligations. This model considers the parents income and the number of children they have to determine the amount of support that should be paid.

Other factors that may be considered include the child’s necessary expenses and the parents’ other dependent children. The amount of support to be paid is usually calculated using a statewide guideline.

However, in certain cases, the judge may deviate from the state guideline to take into account the unique circumstances of the family.

Modifying Child Support

Sometimes, circumstances change, and a parent may need to modify their child support order. For instance, if a parent loses their job, they may not be able to afford the same amount of child support.

In Pennsylvania, you can modify your child support order by filing a modification request with the DRO. The DRO will then set a hearing date for you to appear before the judge and present evidence to support your claim.

Consequences for Not Paying Child Support

Parents who fail to pay child support in Pennsylvania can face serious consequences. The BCSE can enforce child support payments by withholding wages, placing liens on property, seizing and selling assets, or even suspending drivers’ licenses and occupational licenses.

A parent who fails to pay child support may also be held in contempt of court, which could lead to fines and jail time. The BCSE can also report the delinquent parent to the credit bureau, which can adversely affect their credit score.

Ending Child Support

Child support in Pennsylvania often lasts until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens later. However, there are other instances when child support can be terminated.

For instance, if the child gets married, joins the military, or becomes self-sufficient, the child support may cease.

Conclusion

In conclusion, child support is essential in ensuring that children have the necessary resources to thrive. In Pennsylvania, applying for child support is a straightforward process, and a parent can choose to apply online or in-person.

Establishing paternity is critical, and parents need to provide essential information such as employment information, a child’s information, and the other parent’s information when applying. The child support obligation is determined using the

Income Shares Model, which takes into account the parents’ income and the number of children they have.

Parents who fail to pay child support in Pennsylvania face serious consequences such as wage garnishment, asset seizure, and even incarceration. Child support generally ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school.

Paternity Establishment in Pennsylvania

Establishing paternity in Pennsylvania is an essential step for fathers to legally recognize their children and obtain legal rights and responsibilities towards them. Paternity is the legal acknowledgment of the biological father of a child.

When paternity is established, the father is obligated to provide financial support for the child, and can also seek custody and visitation rights.

Common Law Marriage and Paternity

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that recognizes common-law marriages. A common-law marriage is a marriage that is entered into without formal registration or a state-issued license but is recognized because of certain circumstances such as cohabitation and mutual agreement to be married.

When a common-law marriage is established, paternity is also established if the couple has a child. The father in a common-law marriage is legally recognized as the biological father of the child even if the couple did not go through the traditional marriage process.

This means that he is responsible for paying child support and can also seek custody or visitation rights if necessary.

Establishing Paternity with an AOP

In Pennsylvania, paternity can also be established through a process known as the Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP). The AOP is a legal document that two unmarried individuals sign to establish paternity.

The AOP can be signed at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth or at a later date at the DRO. The AOP is legally binding and can only be revoked in rare circumstances such as fraud or duress.

Once signed, the father’s name will be added to the child’s birth certificate, and he will be considered the child’s legal father. The father can then exercise his parental rights and responsibilities such as seeking custody or visitation.

Importance of Paternity Establishment

Establishing paternity is not only crucial for legal and financial reasons but also for a child’s emotional well-being. Children who have legal and emotional connections with their fathers tend to be more successful in life and have healthier relationships with their families.

Additionally, establishing paternity makes it easier for the child to obtain benefits such as health insurance, Social Security benefits, and inheritance rights.

Determining Child Support Obligation in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, child support is determined using the

Income Shares Model. The model considers the income of both parents and the number of children they have to determine the amount of support that should be paid.

Other factors such as the child’s necessary expenses and the parents’ other dependent children may also be taken into account.

Income Shares Model

The

Income Shares Model calculates the child support obligation by adding the parents’ gross incomes together and then deducting certain adjustments such as taxes, mandatory retirement contributions, and child support for other children. The remaining income is referred to as the combined net income (CNI).

Once the CNI has been calculated, it is matched with the Pennsylvania child support schedule, which is a court-mandated chart that shows the combined support obligation based on the number of children and the parents’ income.

Factors Considered in Child Support Calculation

In addition to the

Income Shares Model, other factors may be considered when calculating child support in Pennsylvania. For instance, the court may consider the child’s necessary expenses, such as daycare costs and health insurance premiums, when determining the amount of support to be paid.

The court may also take into account the parents’ other dependent children, earning capacity, and assets.

Pennsylvania Child Support Schedule

The Pennsylvania child support schedule is a court-mandated chart that is used to determine the combined support obligation. This schedule takes into account the income of both parents and the number of children they have.

It is essential to note that the amount calculated using the Pennsylvania child support schedule is only a guideline and may vary based on the specific circumstances of the case.

Deductions from Net Income

When calculating child support in Pennsylvania, certain deductions may be made from the parents’ net income. For example, mandatory retirement contributions, union dues, and health insurance premiums might be deducted from the parents’ net income to determine the combined net income.

These deductions are critical as they can significantly affect the amount of support to be paid.

Conclusion

In conclusion, establishing paternity in Pennsylvania is a critical step in ensuring that children get the financial, emotional, and legal support they need to thrive. The

Income Shares Model is used to determine the child support obligation, which involves calculating the combined net income and matching it with the Pennsylvania child support schedule.

Other factors may also be taken into account when calculating support, such as necessary expenses and deductions from the parents’ net income.

Modifying Child Support in Pennsylvania

Sometimes, a parent may need to modify their child support order due to changed circumstances, such as a significant income increase or decrease. In Pennsylvania, modifying child support is possible, but certain conditions must be met.

Grounds for Child Support Modification

There are several grounds for modifying child support in Pennsylvania. These include a significant change in circumstances such as a job loss or a promotion resulting in a substantial increase in income.

Other grounds for modification may include the emancipation of the child, a change in custody, or a change in medical or educational needs of the child.

Application Process for Child Support Modification

To modify a child support order in Pennsylvania, a parent must first file a modification request with the Domestic Relations Office (DRO) in the county where the support order was entered. The DRO will then set a hearing date at which both parents will be required to appear before a support conference officer or a judge.

During the hearing, both parties will present evidence to support their claims, and the judge will make a ruling accordingly. If the modification request is approved, a new support order will be issued, which may increase or decrease the amount of support to be paid.

Presentation of Evidence for Modification Approval

When filing a request for child support modification, evidence should be presented to support the request. Evidence may include financial statements, income tax returns, payroll statements, and bank statements.

Other documents such as medical bills, school tuition bills, and child care expenses may also be presented to support the request. It is important to note that modifications to child support orders are subject to approval by a judge based on the presented evidence.

Thus, it is essential to present the best evidence to support the request.

Consequences for Not Paying Child Support in Pennsylvania

Not paying child support in Pennsylvania is a serious matter that may result in dire consequences such as wage withholding orders, collection actions for delinquent payments, and even criminal non-support charges.

Wage Withholding Order

One of the most common methods used to ensure that child support is paid is a wage withholding order. This order requires employers to withhold a certain amount of the noncustodial parents paychecks to cover child support payments.

The withheld amount is then sent directly to the state child support enforcement agency, which then forwards the payment to the custodial parent. This method is very effective in ensuring that child support payments are made on time and may even lead to a decrease in delinquent payments.

Collection Actions for Delinquent Payments

If a parent fails to make child support payments, the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement agency may engage in collection actions to recover the unpaid amounts. Collection actions may include placing liens on property, seizing bank accounts, seizing tax returns, and even suspending professional and business licenses.

Criminal Non-Support Charges

In Pennsylvania, failing to make child support payments can lead to criminal non-support charges. If found guilty of this charge, the parent may face a fine of up to $15,000 and may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of up to 2 years.

In cases where the delinquent amount exceeds $20,000, the penalties may be even higher.

Conclusion

In conclusion, modifying child support orders in Pennsylvania is possible, but strict guidelines must be followed. Grounds for modification should be valid, and evidence should be presented to support the claim.

Failing to make child support payments in Pennsylvania can lead to serious consequences such as wage withholding orders, collection actions for delinquent payments, and criminal non-support charges. Thus, it is essential to make timely and consistent child support payments to avoid falling into any of these pitfalls.

Ending Child Support in Pennsylvania

Child support is typically ordered to provide financial assistance to a child until they reach a certain age or graduate from high school. In Pennsylvania, child support is automatically terminated when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens later.

However, there are circumstances where child support may continue beyond these milestones. Automatic Termination on the Child’s 18th Birthday

In Pennsylvania, child support is generally terminated when the child reaches the age of 18.

This means that parents are no longer required to make child support payments once the child turns 18, unless specified otherwise in the support order. However, it is essential for parents to carefully review their support orders to confirm the specific termination date.

It is worth noting that if a child turns 18 while still attending high school, child support will not automatically terminate on their 18th birthday. Instead, child support will continue until the child graduates from high school or turns 19, whichever comes first.

This provision ensures that children receive the financial support they need to complete their high school education.

Petitioning for Extension

In some cases, child support may need to continue beyond the child’s 18th birthday or high school graduation. For instance, if the child has a physical or mental disability that requires ongoing support after reaching the age of majority, the custodial parent can petition the court for an extension of child support.

To petition for an extension of child support, the custodial parent must provide evidence of the child’s disability and the need for ongoing financial support. This evidence may include medical records, expert testimony, or evaluations.

The court will review the evidence and determine whether an extension of child support is appropriate. It is important to note that even if an extension is granted, the court may set specific termination conditions or review periods to reassess the child’s circumstances periodically.

College Tuition Support

In Pennsylvania, child support typically terminates when the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school. However, the obligation to provide support may continue if the child is attending college or a post-secondary educational institution.

To continue receiving support for college tuition, the custodial parent may need to file a petition with the court. The court will review the specific circumstances, including the child’s academic performance, financial resources, and the parents’ ability to provide financial support.

If the court determines that it is appropriate, it may order the noncustodial parent to contribute to the child’s college tuition expenses. It is important to note that the court’s decision regarding college tuition support can vary based on the individual circumstances of the case.

The court will consider factors such as the availability of financial aid, the child’s academic capabilities, and the parents’ respective financial resources. It is always advisable to consult with an attorney to understand the specific requirements and possibilities related to college tuition support.

Conclusion

Child support in Pennsylvania generally ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, but there are circumstances where it may continue beyond these milestones. Parents should review their support orders to confirm the specific termination date.

If child support needs to continue due to a child’s disability or college attendance, the custodial parent can petition the court for an extension. The court will review the evidence and make a decision based on what is in the best interest of the child.

It is important to consult with an attorney to understand the specific laws and procedures relating to the termination of child support in Pennsylvania. In conclusion, understanding the process of child support in Pennsylvania is crucial for both custodial and noncustodial parents.

Applying for child support, establishing paternity, and determining the child support obligation are important steps in ensuring the well-being of the child. It is essential to be aware of the consequences for not paying child support, including wage withholding orders and potential criminal charges.

Modifying child support is possible in certain circumstances, and there are options to extend support beyond the child’s 18th birthday or for college tuition. Whether you are involved in child support as a parent or are seeking child support as a custodial parent, knowing the laws and procedures in Pennsylvania can help ensure fairness and financial security for all parties involved.

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