Whether you need assistance with your divorce, enforcing a child support order, or modifying an existing agreement, the Delaware County child custody lawyers are here to provide you with skilled, supportive legal counsel. We understand what is at stake, especially when children are involved, and we will strive to achieve the best possible outcome based on you and your child’s needs.
What is Child Support?
Child support refers to court-ordered payments that must be made by one parent to the other to help care for their children. In Pennsylvania, these payments must typically continue until the child reaches 18 years old; however, there are certain exceptions. Parents may either agree to a child support arrangement or apply for child support with the local county Domestic Relations office. The purpose of child support is to shield children from the economic impact of divorce and ensure that their needs continue to be met. It is typically used to provide children with necessities, such as:
- Health care
- School supplies
- Visitation travel costs
Determining Child Support Amounts in Pennsylvania
The amount of support required varies depending on the child’s needs, the financial ability of the parents, and the laws of the state. Pennsylvania courts use the income shares model, which estimates child support based on the amount of money both parents would have spent on the child had they remained living together.
Pennsylvania considers the reasonable needs of the child, such as daycare, and the reasonable ability of a parent to pay, as well as the support guidelines provided by the state Supreme Court. The support guidelines list several factors for consideration based upon the income shares model, including:
- Children’s standard of living before the divorce
- Health and age of each parent
- Monthly income/earning potential of both parents
- Number of children
Parents may use these guidelines to approximate the amount of child support that will be required in their case; however, it is advisable to speak with a local attorney who can provide a more precise estimate.
Modifying an Existing Child Support Order
After a court has issued an order for child support, that order may only be changed through the court. Either party may petition for a modification of child support; to prevail, they must show that there was a material and substantial change in circumstances. Such changes may include the loss of a job, decrease in monthly income, or other involuntary occurrences.
Enforcing a Child Support Order
The Pennsylvania Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) has a Child Support Program, overseen by the Department of Human Services, that assists parents with child support issues, including enforcement or modification of orders. Parents may seek assistance from the program in:
- Locating the non-custodial parent
- Establishing paternity
- Enforcing an existing child support order
Consequences for Not Paying Child Support
The BCSE can attempt to collect owed child support by petitioning the court to hold the non-payer in civil contempt, which can result in up to six months of incarceration and probation, as well as up to $500 in fines. The BCSE may also implement one of the following punishments for non-payment of court-ordered child support:
- Bench warrant
- Denial or revocation of passport
- Garnishment of child support from paychecks or unemployment benefits
- Lien against real or personal property
- Publication of their name in the local newspaper
- Reporting to the credit bureau
- Seizure of bank accounts, Workers’ Compensation, and personal injury legal awards, federal and state tax refunds, and lottery winnings
- Suspension of driver’s, professional, and recreational licenses
West Chester Child Custody Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Provide Experienced Legal Counsel on All Child Support Matters
If you require assistance with your divorce, contact a West Chester child custody lawyer at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. Our knowledgeable attorneys are available to assist clients in Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County from our offices conveniently located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania. Please complete our online contact form or call us at 610-565-3701 to schedule an initial consultation.