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Support Modification



By Elizabeth J. Billies | Esquire

1. How do I begin a support action?

In order to initiate a support action, a party must file a Complaint for Support and an Application for Support Services at the appropriate Domestic Relations Office.  Those forms are generally available on the appropriate Domestic Relations Office’s website.   Parties may file a Support Complaint in person or by mail. Make sure to check the website to see if there is a filing fee.  The other party must be served with the Complaint as well as notice of the support conference date. It is best to serve the other party quickly after filing, as they will begin to receive notices from Domestic Relations whether or not they have been served.

2. What happens at the support conference?  

 In all counties, the support action will first be addressed at a Domestic Relations Support Conference before a Domestic Relations Support Conference Officer.  Conferences are scheduled before the Officers (who are not attorneys) approximately four to six weeks after the filing of the Complaint. At this level, the parties may appear with their attorneys or without counsel. The Conference is relatively informal, with the Support Conference Officer reviewing the documents and data submitted by parties.  Counsel and the Officer may also ask relevant questions regarding the income and expenses of the parties and needs of the children, particularly if one party doesn’t bring the information required. 

3. What do I need to bring to the conference?                        

Both parties should bring the following documents, if applicable. Remember, if you don’t bring verification of an expense it may not be considered! Also be sure to bring at least three copies of all documents, one for you, the other side and the officer to review. 

  • Completed Income Statement form which is provided by Domestic Relations with the conference date notice;
  • Most recent federal income tax return with W2's and 1099's;
  • Six months of pay-stubs;
  • Medical insurance documentation;
  • Verification of child care, tuition, and summer camp expenses;
  • Mortgage, real estate taxes and homeowners’ insurance documentation;  
  • Documentation relating to any social security derivative benefits received on behalf of the children and/or;
  • Any other information relating to any deviations being requested (i.e. multi-family deviations or shared custody adjustments).

4.  What happens after the Officer looks at the documents? 

After reviewing all of the information provided, the Officer will enter the data into the PASCES support calculation software and share his/her verbal recommendation with the parties.  The Officers will also generally show the parties their calculations so that the parties can understand how the recommendation was calculated.  The Conference Officers strongly encourage the parties to reach an agreement.

If the parties agree to accept the recommendation, or some other amount is agreed to, the Officer will prepare a Support Order for the parties to sign and the support proceeding is complete.

5. What if we can’t come to an agreement?

If a final agreement cannot be reached, the Officer will enter a temporary Order and the matter will be scheduled for a hearing before a support master or judge, depending on the county. That hearing is generally scheduled before the parties leave the Conference, so be sure to bring your calendar.  The Conference Officer will also provide payment instructions to the obligor and direct deposit information to the obligee at this time.

Are You Entitled to a Child Support Raise?

Are You Entitled to a Child Support Raise?

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Whether you are paying child support or receiving it, a new revision in the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines may impact the child support amount in your case.

Child support in Pennsylvania is calculated according to state guidelines. The guidelines are based upon a statistical model that seeks to measure the portion of household income that parents in intact families spend on their children. Our laws then apply these models to divorced, separated and/or otherwise unmarried parents based on the idea that children in separate households should receive approximately the same resources as children in a single, intact-family household. The guidelines are revised every four years to keep up with the realities of our economic circumstances and the cost of living.

The most recent revision, which goes into effect on May 1, 2017,  results in a modest increase in the child support amount at most income levels, though it is not the same at all income levels. For example, in a family where both parents earn approximately $4,000 net of taxes per month, the increase due to the guideline revision may be approximately $30 per month.

It is important to remember that Pennsylvania Courts do not automatically adjust child support Orders to reflect this change when the guidelines are updated. Instead, a parent must file a petition to modify support to obtain a new Order. Though the petitioner (the person seeking a new support Order) must demonstrate that a change in circumstances has occurred that warrants a modification, a change in the guidelines qualifies as such a change if it results in a material change in child support.

Speaking with your attorney before filing a petition to modify is essential. While the revision may entitle you to a slight increase in support, it is crucial to remember that this change in the law is not considered in a vacuum. Once a petition to modify is filed, the court can consider changes to the each parent’s income, healthcare costs, extracurricular activities, childcare costs and/or any other circumstances of the family. It is possible that changes in these variables may offset any increase you might other see due to the guidelines revision. Furthermore, the cost of potentially litigating a child support modification case may outweigh the increase to which you might be entitled.

Discuss the new guidelines revision with an attorney to address the pros and cons of a  possible support modification in your specific circumstances. Having a full understanding of the possible outcomes of your case can help you make the best decision for your family.