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. In the event there is a disagreement over the entry of an interim support order, a party has the option of filing exceptions. Pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 1910.12, parties have twenty (20) days from the entry of an order to file exceptions. Exceptions may address objections to evidence, findings of facts, conclusions of law, or any other matters occurring during the hearing. Each issue should be raised separately as an exception. Each exception should be concise and without lengthy discussion. Issues that are not raised in the exceptions are deemed waived. Examples of appropriate exceptions would include claims that the incomes and/or expenses were not correctly calculated, special circumstances were not considered, or there was an error in assigning an earning capacity. It is not appropriate to file exceptions simply because you do not agree with the guideline amount.
There are numerous consequences that stem from the failure to pay child support. One possibility is that you will be denied a U.S. passport. If you owe $2,500 or more in child support, you are not eligible to receive a U.S. passport. If you discover your eligibility is affected due to past due child support you must first contact the Domestic Relations section that handles your case to clear the balance. After having resolved any outstanding balance, it generally takes an additional 2-3 weeks before your application for a passport will be able to be processed.
The issue of social security disability benefits may arise in the context of a support action. Support actions in Pennsylvania are governed by a statewide guideline amount that correlates with the ability to pay. Ultimately, any support award will be based on the net incomes of the parties involved. Social security disability benefits are recognized as a source of income pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.16-2. This is distinguishable from public assistance and supplemental security income (SSI) which are not included as income for purposes of support.
August is National Child Support Awareness Month. President Clinton began the month of recognition in 1995 as part of his welfare reform agenda. The goal was to improve the collection of child support payments by widening the use of sanctions including wage garnishment and suspending driver's licenses and passports for parents with child support arrears. As of today in Pennsylvania, wage garnishment is virtually always utilized to ensure child support payments can be collected. Garnishments apply not only to the typical income which would be received from an employer, but also to social security and/or veterans benefits. Other methods of securing support payments include intercept of tax return refunds and even lottery winnings. Imprisonment is also a widely available sanction in the context of enforcement of child support obligations.
In Warmkessel v. Heffner, 2011 PA Super 46, the Superior Court held that credit will not be given for time already spent in jail between being taking into custody and the support hearing due to non-payment of child support. The Defendant Father had been ordered to pay $260 per month in child support for his two children. After failing to pay regularly, several contempt petitions and a missed support enforcement hearing, the court issued a bench warrant for Father's arrest. Police took the Father into custody a few months later and a hearing was scheduled for approximately 3 weeks out. At the hearing, the court found Defendant Father owed $6,037 in late child support payments and sanctioned him to a maximum of 3 months imprisonment. Defendant Father's attorney asked the court to give Father credit for the 21 days already served and the court declined.
Child support in Pennsylvania is based on statewide guidelines established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The guidelines are intended to ensure that similarly situated parties are treated similarly. Accordingly, all parties making $3000 per month with 3 kids would pay the same amount of support based on the guideline amounts. The guidelines are based on an "Income Shares Model." Accordingly, the guideline amount will be based on the combined net monthly income of both parties.
Below are summaries of some of the most recent decisions on various family law topics.