Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C.
Pay Online
Legal & Mediation Services Call for a Confidential Consultation
P 215-752-6200 | F 215-752-6202

support Archives

Earning Capacity

In a support matter, the incomes of the parties will be used to calculate an appropriate award based on the support guidelines applicable throughout the Commonwealth. At the initial appearance for a support matter, both parties are asked to bring in proof of their income in the form of W-2s, tax returns, pay stubs, or other documentation of income received. If a party is unemployed or underemployed, the rules specify that an earning capacity may be imputed. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.16-2(d)(4) explains the first step is a finding that a party willfully failed to obtain or maintain appropriate employment. Involuntary reductions in income (e.g. lay-offs or unemployment due to illness or disability) generally do not trigger earning capacity arguments.

PASCDU

If you are paying or receiving support in Pennsylvania you are likely dealing with PASCDU. The acronym stands for the Pennsylvania Statewide Collection and Disbursement Unit. They are responsible for collecting support from the payors and giving support to the payees. Payors are warned at the time an award is established that they will not receive credit for direct payments to the payee and all payments must go through PASCDU. Payors should receive information on sending payments to PASCDU at their support conference or hearing. Local domestic relations offices may be able to accept payments as well. Wage garnishment is the preferred method of collection for support. Once it is set up, payors do not need to worry about sending payments in any longer as the support due will be automatically withheld from their pay.

Filing for Support

23 Pa C.S. Section 4321 provides that married persons are liable for the support of their spouse according to their respective abilities to provide and parents are liable for the support of their unemancipated children under 18 years of age. Domestic Relations is the branch of the court that handles support applications. An application for support can be filed with their office in the county where you reside or where the payor resides. An application can also be initiated online through the support program website. Support between spouses is based on the difference in income. 40% of the difference in income can be awarded in a case where there are no children. 30% of the difference in income is appropriate where there is also a child support component. Child support in Pennsylvania is based on statewide guidelines established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The guidelines are based on an "Income Shares Model" such that the guideline amount is shared by the parties based on percentage of custody time as well as percentage of income.

Diminishing Credit

Diminishing credit is a concept that property brought into a marriage loses its separate nature and becomes marital in nature as the marriage progresses. The court may give credit for separate property brought into the marriage depending on the circumstances. Generally, any credit to be received decreases with the length of the marriage. For example, Bucks County will reduce the credit by 5% a year such that there is no longer a credit after 20 years. A prime example of a situation where this rule would be applicable is the purchase of a marital home. Say Spouse A contributed $40,000 of their pre-marital money to the purchase of the house. If the parties separated after 5 years, the amount of Spouse A's individual contribution is reduced by 25%. Accordingly, Spouse A would argue that 75% of the $40,000 down payment, or $30,000, is their separate property and not subject to equitable distribution in the divorce. In contrast, Chester County applies a 10% reduction per year so that after 10 years there is no credit. In the above example, after 5 years 50% of the credit will have vanished so that Spouse A would only be able to assert $20,000 as separate property not subject to equitable distribution.

Unreimbursed Medical Expenses

You may be able to get reimbursed for medical expenses if you have an existing support order. Unreimbursed medical expenses may be allocated between the parties in a support matter in proportion to their income under Pa. R.C.P. 1910.16-6. The court may include the expenses within the support order or direct that it is paid directly to the party receiving support or their healthcare provider. The first $250 per year is the responsibility of the party incurring the expense. This $250 threshold is per person for orders that cover multiple persons. The parties will only need to share expenses that exceed $250 per year per person. Proof of the unreimbursed expenses should be timely supplied to the other party but must be supplied to the other party and Domestic Relations no later than March 31st of the following year. Parties are certainly encouraged to work things out amongst themselves prior to this deadline.

Physician Verification Form

Each party's income is relevant in the context of a support action. Pennsylvania can assign an earning capacity for parties who are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. There are recognized exceptions to avoid having income imputed if you do not work. One of those exceptions is if you are physically incapable of working. In the event that a party in a support matter asserts an inability to work due to medical issues, the support rules require that a physician verification form be completed. Pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure (Pa. R.C.P.) 1910.29 (b), the physician verification form should be completed by the party's physician and submitted at the time of the support conference. A sample of the actual form to be used is contained in Pa.R.C.P. 1910.29(b)(3).

Stock Options as Income

Stock benefits are often given to employees as part of their compensation or as an incentive to remain with the company. One of the factors to consider when dealing with stock benefits is whether the benefits are vested or not. Vesting is when all restrictions on the exercise of stock benefits are lifted. Each employer may have different rules on how long it takes benefits to vest. It is important to review the grant documents for the benefits to understand how they work and when they will vest.

Allocation of Support

Allocation is the identification of separate portions of a support award where a party receives both child support and some form of spousal support simultaneously. Child support and alimony payments have different tax consequences. Child support is not tax deductible by the payor or taxed as income to the payee. The exact opposite is true of alimony. Alimony can be claimed as a tax deduction for the payor and must be claimed as income by the payee. Parties can reach a mutual agreement to allocate a support award however they see fit. Where support is calculated pursuant to the guidelines, the Order will spell out what portion of the support award is child support versus what portion of the support award is alimony.

Deciphering Military Pay

Service members can receive compensation in a number of different categories. First, every service member will receive basic pay. This is their compensation for being enlisted as a service member. Certain service members will receive allowances in addition to their basic pay. BAH is the allowance for housing. This figure varies depending on the geographic area where the service member is due to differences in cost of living throughout the country. BAH should be added to the basic pay when determining income available for support. If a member is not receiving a housing allowance this may because they reside on base for free. In that scenario, the value of the benefit they are receiving in living for free should be imputed to them and tacked onto their income available for support.

Filing for Support

The first step in seeking support is to file a complaint with the Domestic Relations office. You can go to the office located in your county for assistance in filing. Through the child support program website you are now able to start a request for support online. Once a complaint is submitted, an initial support conference is scheduled for approximately four weeks later. Any support will be retroactive to the filing date so parties requesting support are not prejudiced during this time frame.

Email us for response

Do You Need Answers?

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy

Firm Locations

Langhorne Office
174 Middletown Blvd
#300
Langhorne, PA 19047

Phone: 215-752-6200
Fax: 215-752-6202
Langhorne Law Office Map

Doylestown Office
196 West Ashland Street
Doylestown, PA 18901

Phone: 215-348-3800
Fax: 215-752-6202
Map & Directions

King of Prussia Office
630 Freedom Business Center
3rd Floor
King of Prussia, PA 19406

Phone: 484-704-2100
Fax: 215-752-6202
Map & Directions

Jenkintown Office
610 Old York Road
Suite 400
Jenkintown, PA 19046

Phone: 267-636-0100
Fax: 215-752-6202
Map & Directions