Bradford County Child and Spousal Support

When couples divorce, not all financial issues are initially resolved as part of the divorce settlement. Some issues, such as matters of child support, must be addressed separately. The difficulty for many individuals is knowing what legal rights they have and how to pursue them. This is where the LLF Law Firm can help. Below, our team explains how child support and spousal support claims work in Bradford County. If you need further information or wish to retain our services, reach the LLF Law Firm Team online or contact us at 888.535.3686.  

What Is Child Support in Bradford County? 

Child support is a type of family support payment. It obliges one party (usually the non-custodial parent) to pay a certain amount towards a child's basic maintenance. Basic maintenance includes, for example, the cost of providing nutrition, shelter, and clothing. It may also include medical bills and other costs deemed essential, e.g., special school tuition fees.  

Is There a Standard Amount of Child Support? 

No. Judges in PA have discretion in terms of how much they award in child support. They are expected to follow a codified schedule, which prescribes minimum amounts and sets out what other factors a judge should consider when allocating payments.  

In short, judges must consider, above everything, what's in a child's best interests. This means that some children may well receive the minimum allocated payments, but others could receive far more. It all depends on various factors, including the child's unique needs, the parents' incomes, and any restrictions on the earning potential of either parent.  

The courts will do everything possible to protect a child's welfare and provide stability and financial certainty during this time. Should you have concerns about how child support payments work, our team can assist.  

How Long Will the Dependent Spouse Receive Child Support?  

Parents are obliged to support their children financially until the child reaches 18, which is the age of majority in PA. Unless a child is legally emancipated prior to 18, child support will normally remain in effect until their 18th birthday.  

Child support can, in some cases, persist beyond 18 years of age. This is more common when a child has very specific support needs, such as a condition that limits their ability to function independently as an adult or find gainful employment. If your child has specific needs, our attorneys can advise how this may affect child support levels in the long term.  

What Is Spousal Support? 

Spouses are not legally obliged to support each other once a marriage ends. And even before they divorce, spouses are only expected to support each other financially within the scope of their own abilities. This could mean that, for example, some spouses do not work during the marriage, while others assume the role of the sole financial provider. Such dynamics, of course, raise interesting questions about how spouses should be supported financially following a divorce.   

Are There Different Levels of Spousal Support? 

Yes. There are, specifically, three types of spousal support. What an individual may apply for depends on their needs and which procedural stage they're at in the divorce process.  

  • Alimony Pendente Lite (APL): APL can be paid when parties have separated but not divorced formally. It's a temporary type of support that assists one spouse while the divorce action is pending. 
  • Spousal support: Separation is difficult for both parties and no less so for a dependent spouse. Spousal support can be claimed during the transition period from separation to divorce. It covers essential and necessary living expenses.  
  • Alimony: Although there's no automatic right to support once a divorce is finalized, it's appropriate in some cases for one party to continue paying alimony for a specified time after divorce. This allows a dependent spouse time to adjust and transition to their new financial reality.  

A dependent spouse can claim child and spousal support, but they cannot claim every type of spousal support simultaneously. An attorney can explain what type of support may be relevant in each situation and how claiming child and spousal support can affect the payments. 

How Much Is Spousal Support Worth in Bradford County PA? 

This all depends on the unique relationship between the parties. After all, every marriage is different, which means no two financial situations are the same. The courts will consider factors such as the duration of the marriage, either spouse's earnings and income potential, and any future income due, e.g., inheritances, when calculating spousal support. 

Given the complexities involved in valuing a spousal support claim in Bradford County, you should consult our Family Law Team for advice. Whether you're the dependent or paying spouse, we can determine what level of support a court may deem fair and how you can best protect your legal rights throughout this process. 

How Child and Spousal Support Proceedings Work  

The laws exist to bring some clarity and certainty to the filing process. If you're filing for child support, you're expected to follow certain procedures. Otherwise, your claim may be denied. While our Family Law Team can explain the procedures in more depth, here is an overview of the main steps couples work through.  

Filing for Support – Domestic Relations Office  

The first step, should one party wish to pursue support, is to file a request with the Bradford County Domestic Relations Office. The office is located within the Bradford County Court of Common Pleas. PA allows for online filing; however, you can visit the office during regular office hours (Monday to Friday, 8 am to 4.30 pm). The office can be found at: 

215 Main Street 

Towanda, PA 18848 

You can also call the Domestic Relations Office in advance if you have any questions on 570.265.1718. 

The Support Conference 

A support conference is far less formal than a court hearing. It takes place between both parties and court officials, including a specialist Master who oversees the discussions. Attorneys, if instructed by either party, can also usually attend or provide advice.  

The conference is an attempt to mediate a favorable arrangement that reflects a child's best interests, the ongoing needs of a dependent spouse, and what's fair to the paying spouse going forward. It's possible to agree to a settlement at the conference; however, if there are any outstanding issues, the matter can proceed to a court hearing.  

The Court Hearing 

If there are still matters in dispute, a family law judge will decide whether to award child and/or spousal support and how much may be fair and reasonable. The judge considers evidence presented by both sides before reaching a conclusion. Unless, however, one side fails to attend the court hearing – in such a scenario, the judge can only consider the evidence presented to them by one party. In other words, if you don't attend your hearing, there's a significant possibility the judgment will go against you. 

The Court Order  

Once the judge decides (or an agreement is reached at a support conference), the court makes a formal court order. This order gives effect to the arrangement. Your attorney can explain the terms of the order should you be unclear about anything. 

Enforcing a Support Order for Spousal or Child Support 

A child support order, or an order for spousal support, are civil court orders. That means they're legally significant and binding. Under PA law, the courts can take various actions to enforce or compel the paying party to comply with the order. These actions include: 

  • “Attaching” or seizing the paying party's wages. 
  • Seizing property to the value of the outstanding sums.  
  • Adding interest to outstanding payments.  
  • Passing further court orders against the paying party.  

Failing to adhere to a court order or failing to abide by enforcement action may result in a criminal charge for contempt of court. This is a potentially serious charge, resulting in financial penalties and, in some cases, jail time. If you're the paying party, you must seek legal advice if you're concerned about your ability to pay before matters escalate. We are on hand waiting to assist if you need our Family Law Team.  

Appeal a Child Support Order in Bradford County PA 

If you are unhappy with a civil court order, including a child support order, you may have grounds to appeal the judgment. At an appeal against a child support order, the judge or other official considers the evidence and weighs, on balance, whether an appeal should be granted.  

If the appeal is successful, the order will be changed or dismissed. If the appeal is unsuccessful, the order remains in force. To improve your chances of making a successful appeal, it's crucial that you have clear grounds for seeking a reconsideration. It's also vital that you know how to present compelling evidence in the most effective way. That's why you should consider legal representation before attempting to initiate a civil court appeal.   

How to Modify a Support Order  

Life changes constantly. Support needs are, unsurprisingly, no exception. That's why it's possible to petition the Bradford County family courts for a support order modification.  

Either party can seek a change to the court order. This could be, for example, because a child no longer requires the same level of support. Or you can modify alimony or spousal support. Your first step should be approaching the LLF Law Firm for assistance because the exact process for modifying a civil court order can be complicated. We will listen to your concerns, explain your legal rights and options, and help you complete the applicable paperwork. 

What if We Both Just Agree to Change the Payment Terms? 

You can informally agree with your spouse to modify a support order. However, there's a crucial caveat: you must still have the court formally confirm the agreed changes. This still involves a formal application to have the court modify the order – the only difference is that the issue should not be contentious.  

If you don't formally confirm the changes with the family court in Bradford County PA, the paying party risks being found in contempt. They could face enforcement action and severe legal consequences.  

Do I Need an Attorney to Represent Me?  

While not mandatory, you are strongly encouraged to seek legal advice and representation prior to filing for support or entering negotiations.  

  • Emotions are, understandably, running high right now for you and your spouse. Your attorney will help to keep matters focused, which should help your case move along more efficiently.  
  • Without legal counsel, you may not follow the correct court procedures or file the right paperwork within the appropriate time limits. Such procedural anomalies could jeopardize your chance of success, whether you're seeking support or challenging an order.  
  • You have legal rights. Without an attorney, you may be unaware of your rights and your options for exercising them.  

At the LLF Law Firm, your family matters to us. Although you do not require an attorney, we encourage you to call our Family Law Team to discuss how we can assist.   

How Can the LLF Law Firm Help? 

Dealing with the financial fallout of a divorce is distressing and heartbreaking. Worrying about how to handle child and/or spousal support matters is a concern you could do without. That's where the LLF Law Firm can help. We will manage the process on your behalf, advocate for you as far as possible, and help you make informed choices about you and your family's future. It's our mission to uphold and protect your legal rights, and we will fight to secure the most favorable outcome for you.  

Don't delay getting the legal advice you need (and deserve) at this critical time. Instead, call our attorneys at 888.535.3686 or leave the LLF Law Firm Team a message online.  

Contact a skilled Family Law Team Today!

The LLF Law Firm has unparalleled experience practicing Family Law in Pennsylvania. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Our Family Law Team will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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