Negotiating child or spousal support can be a complicated and oftentimes difficult process involving many confusing questions about custody, finances, and living situations. While some partners can come to a mutual agreement, this is not always possible. If you find yourself needing to file a complaint or adjust an already-existing order, then the Domestic Relations Section of the Butler County Family Court must be notified by one or both of the individuals involved.
When filing a complaint to this office, the individual must be prepared with "supporting documents, including evidence establishing the father of the child." While this can be done without an attorney, if you want to give yourself the best outcome for child or spousal support, it is best to hire an experienced family law attorney. The LLF Law Firm and its dedicated Family Law Team have many years of experience assisting clients in Butler County and securing the best possible family support orders for their clients. Call us at (888) 535-3686 or tell us about your case online.
Expectations of Financial Support
Pennsylvania law states that spouses, during the time of marriage, must support each other to the best of their ability. The law includes supporting their children up to the age of 18, and in some cases, like those involving disabled children, parents may be liable for longer. When couples choose to file for divorce, previously private issues enter the legal sphere, and the matter can become long, tedious, and complicated. A common question that arises following a separation is which spouse will be responsible for providing support and how much will be expected of them. The Domestic Relations Section will manage two types of support orders:
- Child Support: a court-ordered sum that goes from one partner to the other towards the costs of child-raising
- Spousal Support: a court-ordered sum that goes from one partner to the other for individual financial assistance for a set period of time.
Both of these sums can be complicated to estimate because they depend on various factors, including the needs of any children, monthly net income, and the state of any divorce proceedings.
In most cases, the parent who is granted custody of the child will receive child support from the other. Child support is court-ordered and will be in the form of a regularly occurring payment "to help provide food, clothing, and other things for his or her child." Butler County has a specific set of guidelines for calculating the amount owed.
How Child Support is Calculated
Following the basic child support schedule, the courts weigh several factors in order to reach a conclusive amount that must be paid regularly. The aforementioned figures are a baseline for basic financial needs, and the courts may choose to award higher than the stated numbers if the situation requires it. When calculating, the courts will consider the following factors:
- age and number of children
- monthly income of spouses, including investments and real estate
- health of the children
- any other financial obligations of the paying spouse
Since these are just guidelines, and each situation is unique, some factors may be considered with more weight than others. Additionally, the payments will usually continue until the child reaches the age of 18 or is emancipated. An exception to this is if the child suffers from a medical disability that requires long-term financial aid.
In Butler County, spousal support is put in place to protect a financially dependent spouse during the difficult transition of a separation or a divorce, ensuring that the dependent spouse does not face undue financial obstacles. The support order will generally be short-term and paid until the divorce is finalized, although other settlements may include a long-term arrangement.
Types of Spousal Support
There are three types of spousal support in Pennsylvania. Which type is filed for depends on a variety of factors, including the current stage of divorce proceedings.
- Spousal Support: Preliminary payments that go to the financially dependent spouse to ensure they meet their basic financial needs while the couple is separated but not legally divorced
- Alimony Pendente Lite (APL): Temporary payments usually occur when one spouse files for divorce. Although similar to spousal support, APL is honored during a pending divorce, while spousal support is only offered when the couple is separated.
- Alimony: Long-term payments that are awarded, post-divorce, to the financially dependent spouse to prevent them from exclusively relying on state aid and allow them to, within reason, cover their current and future expenses.
Additionally, the court may award the dependent spouse "equitable reimbursement" if their potential income drops while they are in school, effectively allowing them to finish education or school to increase their potential income.
Calculating Spousal Support
Finalizing a divorce does not guarantee alimony. The court sees each case as unique and must deem the spouse's complaint as reasonable and necessary based on factors including, but not limited to:
- The length of the marriage
- Each spouse's actual income
- Each spouse's potential income, including education, training, and inheritance
- Any relevant issues with a spouse reaching their potential income, i.e., child-rearing responsibilities
Court Orders for Child and Spousal Support
Usually, the spouse filing the complaint seeks to be awarded spousal or child support. If a PA family court judge honors the complaint, the judge will issue a civil court order to the paying spouse. The court order will have specific requirements that must be met, and if the paying spouse fails to meet said requirements, they may face criminal penalties.
The Court Process in Butler County, PA
All support orders in Butler County will follow set guidelines when a spouse is petitioning during the time of divorce. The preliminary steps in the next section are brief and provide a general overview of the process, which can sometimes become complex and convoluted. These steps aim to mediate or resolve the issue before it becomes the court's responsibility. It is in your best interest to have legal support during this process, both for the outcome and to understand your rights. The LLF Law Firm and its experienced Family Law Team are a click away from ensuring you the best possible ruling.
Filing for Support in Butler County, PA
Spouses filing divorce complaints need not file for alimony separately. However, neither APL nor spousal support will be included in the complaint and should be filed separately. If you are filing for APL, spousal support, or child support, you must notify the Domestic Relations Section of the Butler County Family Court either online or in person.
A divorce decree is an official termination of the marriage that does not include specifications for spousal or child support. These must be filed separately and will become part of the divorce proceedings. Generally, issues pertaining to additional orders are addressed during a discussion phase at the court conference.
For child support orders, Butler County has resources for establishing the paternity of the child when there is a dispute about the biological father.
When a support conference begins, a court-ordered Master specializing in the relevant order will be present to ensure equal opportunities for both parties to vocalize their concerns and requests. Within the case context, an attorney may or may not be present. However, it is important to note that even without an attorney present, an experienced Family Law Team can still coach you on the strongest arguments for your case before the conference.
If an agreement cannot be reached during the support conference, the case will be appointed to a family law judge and become a full hearing. When this happens, you will be provided a specific date and time, and it is crucial that you are present. Missing this hearing can lead to contempt charges, which risk additional fines or even jail time. Additionally, if one of the spouses fails to appear, the judge will only hear one side of the story, significantly worsening the outcome for the other spouse. You are allowed counsel for this court hearing and should take full advantage of this right by hiring the experienced Family Law Team at the LLF Law Firm.
Why You Need the LLF Law Firm in Butler County, PA
Although you have the right to self-file for any support order in Butler County, it is in your best interest to hire an experienced Family Law Attorney for the following reasons:
- Issues of financial support in family law can quickly spiral from a civilized discussion to a heated dispute. Having an attorney who understands your case and the specifics of Pennsylvania Family Law ensures your personal needs are met with results.
- Tight deadlines are also commonplace in Family Law, and delegating an attorney on your behalf benefits both your peace of mind and your case.
- Determining Evidence is another area where an experienced attorney can play a pivotal role in advocating for your case.
The LLF Law Firm and their Family Law Team are well equipped to provide you with the best possible support for your case, whether you are filing a complaint or have been ordered to appear in response to your partner's filing. Please call us at (888) 535-3686 or tell us about your case.
Appealing a Support Decision in Butler County, PA
If you appeal a support decision, you must file a Motion for Reconsideration with the Family Court. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania's law is confusing and requires one to be aware of extremely tight deadlines, such as the fact that an appeal must be filed within 30 days of the order being issued and that the court has 120 days to make a decision. As previously mentioned, specific information can be easy to gloss over and can negatively affect your case. Fortunately, The LLF Law Firm and their Family Law Team can streamline the appeals process for you.
Modifying a Court Order
Typically, both spouses can send a petition to the court requesting modification of an order, either to increase or decrease the original amount. Moreover, the spouses can agree on changes, but a judge must approve them, or the paying spouse could face charges for violating the order. To avoid charges, make sure to submit all changes to the appointed judge so that they may ratify the newly agreed-upon terms.
Enforcing a Support Order
When a support order is issued, the courts can and will exercise their power to enforce adherence. If the paying spouse fails to follow their order, for whatever reason, a judge has the right to do the following:
- Adding interest to the payments
- Permitting the requisition of the paying spouse's property, including payments received and investments, to cover the overdue amount
- Warranting the confiscation of up to 50% of the paying spouse's wage
- Issuing a further judgment onto the paying spouse
- Demanding collateral or security for future payments
Consequences of Violating a Support Order
All support orders are legally binding civil orders, meaning, should the paying party fail to adhere, they will face criminal charges of contempt. They may face fines or even jail time of up to 6 months if convicted. This only worsens their original financial situation and stresses an already difficult period. If you find yourself, for any reason, struggling to meet payment deadlines, seek legal counsel to assist you in modifying the original order and also to help prevent legal ramifications.
How the Family Law Attorneys at the LLF Law Firm Can Help
Family law matters are exhausting, frustrating, and tense for all parties involved. The LLF Law Firm and their Family Law Team understand this and equally understand the importance of securing you the best possible outcome, whether this is for spousal or child support. The LLF Law Firm has many years of experience assisting residents of Butler County, PA, in securing court orders and modifying previously existing ones. Whether they are representing you in court, powerfully presenting your case, or ensuring you are fairly treated, you want the LLF Law Firm on your side. Call us at (888) 535-3686 or fill out this online form to tell us about your case today.