When couples separate, the whole family feels the impact. Your financial circumstances may change, and suddenly, you're unsure what the future holds. If you're dealing with a separation or divorce, then your priority is, of course, protecting your children's welfare. Understanding your legal rights regarding child and spousal support plays a key role in safeguarding the best interests of your family.
At LLF Law Firm, we can help you navigate the complexities of the financial support process. Whether you're facing a court order in Blair County, PA, or you're filing for support, we can assist. Contact LLF Law Firm Family Law Team at 888.535.3686, or complete our contact form to discuss your situation.
Types of Support for Spouses
There are, broadly, two types of support available for spouses in PA: child support and spousal support.
- Child support: Child support is a type of payment made to meet a child's essential living expenses. In other words, it covers their basic needs, such as housing, food, and medication. It's usually paid by the non-custodial spouse to the parent with custody.
- Spousal support: If a financially dependent spouse requires time to adjust to the change in circumstances, they may apply for spousal support. There are three main types of support, which we will cover below.
Child and spousal support exist due to the obligations placed on couples when they marry. Typically, spouses should support each other financially if they're able to do so. And they should, of course, provide for a child's basic needs and comfort. The level of support a spouse may claim is highly variable, however. It all depends on the circumstances of each family.
How to Calculate Child Support
In Blair County, PA, family court judges can determine child support amounts by referring to a codified schedule. This reference range is, however, only a starting point for what's “fair” in each case. In practical terms, judges consider the best interests of the child and other influencing factors, including the child's age, parental income, and their specific needs, e.g., special schooling.
It's not easy to estimate child support without full consideration of the facts. The LLF Law Firm Team can explain, in more detail, how support may be calculated based on your family's financial situation.
Duration of Child Support in Blair County
Child support, naturally, does not last forever in most cases. Typically, child support expires when a child turns 18 as this is the age of majority in Blair County. It could expire earlier if a child is emancipated, but it can also endure for longer if the child has specific needs. For example, the paying spouse may be required to pay child support beyond the age of 18 if their child has severe cognitive and/or physical impairments that limit their ability to function independently.
Blair County Spousal Support
There are three types of spousal support: Alimony Pendente Lite (APL), spousal support, and post-divorce alimony.
- APL: When one party files for divorce, the right to APL may be triggered. This is the point when parties are separated, but they're not formally divorced. APL covers the period during which the divorce action is pending.
- Spousal support: During the period between separating and finalizing a divorce, the dependent spouse may need financial support. Spousal support covers reasonable and essential expenses, or basic living expenses, during this period.
- Alimony: In some situations, spouses may require ongoing financial support following the conclusion of the divorce. Post-divorce alimony is payable for a certain period to help dependent spouses adjust to life beyond the marriage. It is not an indefinite solution, but it can be considered a transitory payment.
Our Family Law Team can discuss what level of spousal support you may be facing based on your situation. We will also consider how the value may be impacted based on other support payments, such as child support.
Value of Spousal Support
It's impossible to quantify spousal support without full consideration of a couple's financial circumstances. However, the value is typically determined by what's reasonable and necessary for the dependent spouse. To determine the reasonableness of any award, the court considers, among other factors:
- The recipient spouse's income and earning potential. Earning potential means the ability to earn more money due to factors such as qualifications, training, and career progression.
- Any restrictions on the recipient spouse's income or earning potential e.g., staying home to raise the children.
- Any anticipated income from, for example, inheritances.
- The paying spouse's income and earning potential.
Judges also consider the duration of the marriage as a factor.
How to File for Child or Spousal Support in Blair County
Anyone seeking child and/or spousal support in PA – including Blair County – must follow certain steps. The process begins with the initial application or filing for support.
Filing for Support
In Blair County, you may file for support online or by attending the Blair County Domestic Relations Office in person. The office is located at:
423 Allegheny St 327
Hollidaysburg, PA 16648.
Opening hours vary, but you may normally attend between 8 AM and 4 PM, Monday through Friday.
A support conference is somewhat less formal than a court hearing. It's conducted by a Master who specializes in child or spousal support, depending on what is in contention. The Master mediates discussions between spouses to facilitate a fair agreement. The goal is to resolve issues of child and/or spousal support informally, as part of the wider divorce process, as far as possible.
If, however, any issues remain in dispute, and cannot be resolved informally, then the matter can proceed to a court hearing. If you have not retained an attorney by this stage, then we strongly suggest that you call our firm to discuss representation. However, it's helpful to have an attorney to assist with your support conference – we can often actively participate on your behalf to ensure your legal position is respected.
Support By Court Order
The final stage is a court hearing. The family court judge will consider both sides and all evidence presented. They will reach a determination based on the facts and various factors, such as the child's best interests. You must attend your court hearing, or else the court will issue a judgment based on your spouse's arguments alone. This is highly unlikely to be in your favor, so the best way to protect your interests is to attend the hearing.
If the court grants the order, it comes into force immediately. The court may, however, dismiss the petition. Both parties may have appeal rights, which can be discussed with the LLF Law Firm Team.
Court Order Consequences and Enforcement
Court orders have consequences. They are, after all, legally binding documents. This is why failing to comply with a court order is considered a criminal rather than a civil offense. It can result in substantial fines and even jail time, depending on what happened.
What should you do if you're worried about your ability to comply with a court order? Call LLF Law Firm immediately. We can help you seek a court order modification based on your circumstances. We can also help you understand your obligations and how to fulfill them.
If support order violations carry contempt charges, then it's clear that courts can enforce such orders. Enforcement action varies, depending on the nature of the violation. However, under Title 23 of the PA Consolidated Statutes, judges have the following options at their disposal:
- Addition of interest to future payments.
- Compel the individual to pay legal fees and other associated costs.
- Issue further court orders against the individual.
- Property seizure (up to the value of the unpaid/overdue amount).
- Requirement of collateral for future payments.
- Wages seizure (no more than 50% of the paying spouse's wage).
The best way for a paying spouse to avoid court judgments against them is to seek legal advice the moment they are concerned about their ability to pay. This is why our team is always on hand to assist whenever clients need us.
How to Appeal a Support Order in Blair County
It's possible to appeal a support order in certain circumstances. The procedure involves filing a “Motion for Reconsideration” with the court. The judge considers the motion and determines whether to grant or dismiss the appeal. To begin, the motion must be filed with the Blair County Family Court.
Appealing a court order is complicated and requires presenting sufficient evidence to support your position. It also requires adhering to certain deadlines. Our team can assist you and explain what options are open to you, depending on your situation.
Modifying a Child or Spousal Support Order
No situation lasts forever. Eventually, you may find that a child support order no longer serves your family's best interests. In PA, you can request to modify a child or spousal support order if, for example:
- You are the paying spouse, and your financial circumstances have changed, meaning you can no longer afford the payments.
- You are the recipient spouse, and the payments no longer reflect your needs or financial situation.
Rather than petitioning the court to modify the order, there's an option to reach an informal agreement with your ex-spouse to pay different amounts. However, this agreement must still be confirmed by the court formally, or the original order remains in force. This means that the paying spouse is technically violating a court order, even if both parties agree to a different amount.
Alternatively, you can approach the court and formally request a modification. In either scenario, if the court agrees to confirm the changes, the new order supersedes the original order.
Why You Need a Family Law Attorney
The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team knows how complex the legal procedures involved here can be. If you're still undecided about hiring legal representation, here are three reasons why it's in your best interests to consider doing so.
- Building a compelling case means understanding the rules of evidence. It means knowing how to present your side of the story in the most effective way possible to improve your chances of success. Our team understands how to gather evidence and use it to a client's advantage.
- Despite your best efforts to remain calm, there's always the chance that emotions will cloud your judgment. This is understandable; after all, this is your family on the line. We will remain objective, keep discussions focused, and work on bringing matters to a fair and favorable conclusion with minimal fuss.
- Whether you're appealing an order or filing for support, courts have strict procedures you must follow. Even one mistake can jeopardize your chances of making your case. Our experienced lawyers will handle all legal and procedural aspects so you can be confident in how the matter is progressing.
If you have any questions about our services, LLF Law Firm Team is only too happy to assist.
Hire LLF Law Firm Family Law Team Today
Are you dealing with child support issues in Blair County? Call LLF Law Firm. As experienced family law attorneys, we appreciate what you're going through and how stressful this time is. Our goal is to help you overcome the challenges involved by making the legal process as simple as possible to understand. We will listen, explain your legal rights and options, and help you determine how to proceed.
The PA family court system can be difficult to navigate alone. But you are never required to do so. We will stand by your side and ensure your legal rights are respected at every step of the process. To retain our attorneys, call 888.535.3686 or leave us a message online.
Our Family Law Team looks forward to meeting you.