Montgomery County, PA Child Support Lawyers
How an Attorney Can Help With Child Support Issues
Both parents have an obligation to provide financial support to their children. When parents separate or divorce, child support is used to cover the costs of raising children, including food, shelter, education, medical care, clothing, and more. Under Pennsylvania law, every parent has a duty to support his or her child regardless of whether or not the parents are married. Even parents who are denied visitation must support their children.
The penalties for failing to pay child support can be significant in Pennsylvania. If you are going through a divorce and children are involved, it’s crucial that you understand your rights and consult an experienced Montgomery County family law attorney who can help answer all of your questions.
The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., has many years of experience handling cases of child support throughout Pennsylvania. Sheryl R. Rentz is a member of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar Associations, as well as the Montgomery County Bar Association. We offer free and confidential consultations on any potential case regarding child support or divorce and will let you know what your rights are. Call our office toll-free at (866) 290-9292 to discuss your case in a free consultation.
When a Parent Doesn’t Pay Child Support in Pennsylvania
The most common situation involving child support is when one parent does not pay his or her required amount to the other parent. Pennsylvania has very strict laws that make punishments for offenders extremely severe. Any amounts owed in back payments of child support are known as arrears; and the parent who does not pay them can face jail time, driver’s license and passport suspension, bank account seizure, reporting of failure to pay to credit agencies, seizures of certain incomes and properties, and more. There are many ways you can collect child support, and enforcing them is as simple as contacting an experienced child support attorney for free advice.
When a parent is in arrears and is still refusing to pay current child support, an enforcement application can be filed with a court of law. In addition, Pennsylvania child support laws allow the punishments mentioned above to be implemented once a child support enforcement application is filed.
Frequently Asked Questions About Child Support
Q: How is the amount of child support determined in Pennsylvania?
A: The amount of child support awarded is determined by Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 1910.16. The support guidelines were created to make sure that children of divorced parents receive the same proportion of parental incomes that they would have if their parents had stayed together.
Q: Is it possible to change a child support order in Montgomery County right away?
A: If you disagree with the child support order, you will have to act quickly to change it. You must file an appeal within 20 days after the order is received. You can request a hearing with the county domestic relations office that issued the order.
Q: What grounds are there for changing a child support order later?
A: When life circumstances change, you can petition to change, cancel, or reinstate an existing order. Life changes that may qualify for changing a child support order include the existence of additional income, increases in expenses, changes in custody, emancipation of a child, or death of one of the spouses. Spouses may also settle on a new agreement outside of court and then request approval for the revised guidelines.
Q: How long will I have to make child support payments?
A: Parents in Pennsylvania are financially responsible for their children until they reach the age of 18. Payments must continue if the child has hit 18 but is still in high school. Only after the child leaves high school and is 18 or is emancipated will you be allowed to stop making payments.
Q: Do I have to pay past-due child support in arrears even after my child emancipates or comes of age?
A: An "arrear" is a legal term for a debt that is overdue after missing one or more required payments. Arrears stay as outstanding debt that must be paid in full, no matter how long it takes. Even if you change the child support order, past-due arrears still have to be paid. However, if a parent wants to make amends and pay child support after not paying for some time or escaping responsibility by fleeing the state, he or she does have options. Contact our office for a free and completely confidential consultation to learn what your options are regarding outstanding child support payments. In some cases, a failure to pay child support can be made up once the child is of a certain age. The payments can even be lessened and any past record cleared.
Q: When are child support payments due?
A: Support payments are due on the first day of every month. The total amount due that month must be paid before the first day of the next month to prevent legal action.
Q: What happens if a parent fails to pay child support?
A: If a parent falls behind in paying child support, the county domestic relations office can garnish wages or take the parent's income tax refund checks, personal property, bank accounts, or even lottery winnings. If the parent falls behind for more than a month, the parent's driver's license or passport could be suspended.
Q: What can I do if my ex doesn’t pay child support?
A: Your child has a legal right to receive support from the other parent, and you can ask a Pennsylvania court to ensure those payments are received in a timely manner. Your best option is to contact an experienced family law attorney who can explain the process to you in detail, review and file all paperwork, and petition the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) or a Pennsylvania court. The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., can represent your family’s interests throughout the entire process and advocate for your ex to pay each payment in full.
Q: Can I file contempt of court charges if my ex doesn't pay support?
A: Child-support payments are court-ordered, meaning that refusing or failing to pay them in full can lead to criminal charges. Typically, this decision is up to the judge reviewing your case. Contempt of court charges are more common in cases where the other parent is belligerent or continuously refuses to make payments, especially after being given other punishments, such as license suspensions, that prove unsuccessful. Contempt of court is used primarily to punish individuals who defy the court, rather than compensate victims, however; a conviction can result in imprisonment for six months in a county jail, a $500 fine, or probation. As this can make it difficult for the other parent to make child-support payments, it is best to discuss this situation with your attorney to determine the best option.
Q: Can a raise or promotion affect child support?
A: The amount of child support ordered relies on the income levels of both of the child’s parents. Under Pennsylvania’s child support guidelines, the parent with the lower income can receive child support from the other parent. However, if either parent receives a raise or promotion, it can change the child support dynamics. For example, if the parent with lower income receives a raise, then the amount of money the other parent is required to pay may be reduced. In turn, if the higher-income parent gets a raise, then they may be required to pay more money to the lower-income parent. The same can be said if one parent loses their job or has to take a lower-paying job. If they were required to make payments, then they could petition the court to have their payments reduced.
Establishing Paternity for Child Support Orders
"Parentage" refers to an action filed by either one of a child’s parents in an effort to legally establish paternity. This process is done if the two parents are not married, and it serves to determine the father’s legal responsibilities moving forward. The petition must be completed before the court can give out an order for child support, or a father can voluntarily sign a verified written acknowledgement of paternity. If the parents are married when the child is born, the husband is automatically recognized as the legal father.
The doctrine of paternity by estoppel can be applied to child support cases when a father holds a child as his own whether he is the biological father or not. This means he has taken on the role of father for all intents and purposes and cannot deny paternity in legal matters. It is also used for mothers who hold a man as their children’s father while they are in a relationship, to prevent these mothers from seeking child support from someone else in the future.
Remarriage and Child Support
Entering into a new marriage doesn’t immediately mean a court order for child support will be changed. However, the court may take a couple of factors into consideration to decide whether or not to modify the current order. While the new spouse isn’t necessarily responsible for financially supporting a child from a different relationship, it is assumed that his or her income will help lessen the household expenses, which could mean it’s not necessary for the custodial parent to receive the same amount of support. Having another child also has the potential to reduce a previous child support order, depending on the parents’ monthly net income and their total support obligation for all children.
Enforcing Out-of-State Child Support
It is common for one parent to want to move out of state for work or personal reasons, especially after a divorce, but there are certain obligations they must meet under the law. If a non-custodial parent wishes to move out of state, then the court will generally allow them to do so, although there may be changes in custody and visitation schedules. However, that parent is still required to pay child support payments even if they do not live in Pennsylvania. Under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), the Pennsylvania Bureau of Child Support Enforcement has the right to enforce child support payments in other states. Parents who are obligated to pay child support should continue to make payments through the BCSE website. In addition, if they do not make payments, then the other parent can petition the BCSE or Pennsylvania court to enforce the child support order.
Alimony, Child Support, and Taxes
Alimony is given so that an ex-spouse may maintain the same standard of living he or she was used to while in the marriage. The party who has a higher income is generally ordered to pay alimony, and he or she can claim this as a tax deduction. On the other hand, the party receiving alimony will need to report it as income on taxes.
Child support payments are to be used solely to provide for the needs of the children. They should go towards paying for things like the children’s shelter, food, clothes, education, medical expenses, and recreational activities. There are no tax requirements on child support for either the person paying or receiving.
Keeping the Client’s Best Interests in Mind
There are numerous factors that can influence a parent’s ability to receive or pay child support, and it is important to discuss your unique situation with an experienced Montgomery County family law attorney. At the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., our lead attorney has over 25 years of experience dealing with complicated child support litigation. No matter your case, we will utilize our skill and knowledge to represent you in a wide variety of situations, including:
- Adjustments to child support payments
- Petitions to enforce a child support order
- Relocations and receiving child support payments
- Determining child support in complicated high-asset divorces
Discussions regarding child support can be tense, especially if you and the other parent are not on good terms, but you should not be afraid to discuss these matters with a lawyer. The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., can review your case in a free consultation and discuss the best option for your situation. Call us toll-free at (866) 290-9292 to schedule your free and comprehensive consultation with a Montgomery County child support attorney.
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