Divorce in Erie County, Pennsylvania, especially when children are involved, can be an intimidating process to begin. The stress and emotional impact of ending a marriage, and working through the details of custody and child support, can seem almost insurmountable. And financial questions including who is responsible for childcare costs, what and how visitation is organized and who will provide safety nets like insurance, savings and support can seem nearly impossible.
When divorcing parties are unable to reach a settlement on their own, they need the intervention of the courts. In these cases, courts are called upon to make support orders. In Erie County, Pennsylvania, couples can seek resolution through the Erie County Domestic Relations division.
You may be putting yourself at a disadvantage if you file for spousal or child support without the aid of an attorney. An experienced legal counsel can help. The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team can help guide you through the family law matters affecting you. Call or contact us online today to request a consultation.
Expectations of Financial Support
In Pennsylvania, the law states spouses must provide financial support during the course of the marriage, whenever able. It also states that children under the age 18 also have the right to financial support. In cases of separation or divorce, financial support for the spouse and the child comes in two types: child support and spousal support.
- Child support is payments one spouse makes to the other spouse to provide for the costs of raising their child.
- Spousal support is payments one spouse makes to the other spouse to support them financially.
A variety of factors determine the determination of how much support the party receives.
In Erie County, Pennsylvania, divorce courts may order child support, or payment arrangements between the divorcing couples. This legal order will require one parent to pay the other parent regularly for the financial support of their child or children. These child support payments cover the child's basic needs including shelter, food and clothing.
Child support payments are frequently made to the parent who has custody from the parent who does not have custody.
How Child Support Is Calculated
Pennsylvania uses a measurement system to determines the amount of child support that should be paid by each of the parents. This calculates items including the minimum child support that supports the most basic of responsibilities. The final actual amount of the child support award granted by the court may vary.
To understand and calculate child support due in Erie County, the court considers a variety of factors:
- Special or specific needs, for example, learning disabilities or health conditions
- The child's age
- The other spouse's property, income, and earnings from other investments
- Other sources of income in the other spouse's home, for example, a new spouse's income and investments
- The other spouse's financial obligations
Pennsylvania courts will assess all sources of income for both parents. The court is obligated to act in the child's best interest, including the standard of living. Assessing the value of each parent's contribution to the support of that child is part of ensuring that the child's life is impacted as little as possible by the divorce of their parents.
The Duration of Child Support
Child support generally lasts until the child is no longer a minor. In Pennsylvania, that is when the child turns 18 years old. In special cases, for example, in cases of serious disability, child support may last into adulthood.
Pennsylvania spousal support is set up to help the dependent spouse. It enables them continue to live without becoming disadvantaged thanks to the divorce. Spousal support is not set in stone. It can be re-assessed and changed over time. Some may only last the duration of the divorce proceedings, others may last for the entire childhood of a dependent or beyond.
Divorce: Types of Financial Support
By law, Pennsylvania recognizes three types of spousal support that a spouse may claim with different purposes and conditions.
Spousal support is a regular payment that provides for the spouse to pay for reasonable expenses including basic living expenses during the separation period, before the divorce is final.
Alimony Pendente Lite (APL)
Generally awarded when a divorce is pending, APL applies to divorces in which one person has filed for divorce as opposed to entering a jointly decided separation.
This happens when the financially dependent spouse is awarded ongoing support payments after the divorce is finalized. This is usually in the amount that allows the dependent spouse to meet reasonable ongoing expenses.
This is in support of a spouse attempting to earn more money. Equitable Reimbursement allows a spouse to complete their education—or pursue further training or education—that will result in increased earning potential.
Calculating Spousal Support
Courts award spousal support and alimony on a case-by-case basis. They consider whether the support is understood to be necessary and reasonable. Courts consider a number of factors including:
- The length of the marriage.
- Each spouse's earning potential is based on their education and training.
- Each spouse's actual income.
- Other anticipated income including what the person may receive in inheritance.
- Limitations on a spouse reaching their earning potential, for example, if they are home raising a child.
Child Support and Spousal Support Court Orders
In most cases, the spouse seeking financial support files for spousal and child support. At that point, the family court judge considers the case and makes a ruling. This will be a civil court order that delineates exactly what the paying spouse must pay whether that's child support and/or spousal support.
Refusal to follow the civil court may lead to criminal penalties.
The Court Process in Erie County, Pennsylvania
When you begin the divorce process in Erie County, you follow a series of procedures including support proceedings, including meetings to resolve the situation. The processes can be complicated. Legal professionals can help you navigate Pennsylvania divorce court.
Filing for Support in Erie County, PA
Filing for child support in Erie County, Pennsylvania can come as part of a divorce, as a referral from the Welfare Department, from another county or state, or simply by calling or visiting a Welfare Department office to discuss a support complaint.
To file in person, visit
Erie County Courthouse
140 West Sixth Street
Erie, PA 16501
Pennsylvania courts will also provide divorce forms to begin filling out the necessary paperwork
Divorce decrees are not the end of the road in divorce cases. A divorce decree simply ends the marriage. There are many separate filings for all forms of support, including alimony and child support. These filings can be brought into the divorce proceedings, and usually must undergo a discussion phase before they are completely resolved. You may need to go through court conferences to determine child and spousal support or even the division of property.
Courts may request a paternity test when considering child support,. Verifying paternity can be a critical step that must be completed before any conversation about support can happen. Pennsylvania courts offer paternity testing to families who have a child whose biological father can be disputed.
A Master, appointed by the court, oversees a support conference. In this process, the Master will attempt to mediate the situation and allow both parties to express their concerns. Masters specialize in either spousal or child support. Conferences might allow attorneys to be present and participate on behalf of their clients.
Attorneys can also provide coaching prior to the conference, as well. The case may not be settled at this phase of the process. In those cases, the matter will proceed to a full hearing before a judge.
If the case goes to a hearing, it will be assigned a date and time for review by a judge. At hearings, you will be represented and accompanied by your legal counsel. This is serious, and all court protocols must be followed.
If only one side is present, the judge will only hear their side of the argument and decide based on only what was presented. The judge will also direct any parties with matters of contempt, such as violations of support orders, to the prosecutor.
Do You Need an Attorney?
You aren't required to hire a lawyer to file for spousal support or child support in Erie County, Pennsylvania. But there's no question that hiring an attorney for any family law matter, especially an issue that may become highly contentious can be beneficial.
Sometimes there are deadlines for filing documents with the court. You must complete the right paperwork. Without an attorney to assist you, there's a risk you will miss critical deadlines or file incomplete paperwork.
The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team are waiting to assist you with your family law issues.
Appealing a Support Decision in Erie County, Pennsylvania
In Erie County, you can appeal a family law decision by filing a Motion for Reconsideration with the Family Court. The process involves strict deadlines and some complicated paperwork. You may want to consult an experienced attorney before you appeal a child support or alimony order in Pennsylvania.
Modifying a Court Order
Often, in divorce and custody cases, either party can petition the court to modify a support order. That means that you can seek permission to increase or decrease payments, depending on the specifics of each party's circumstances.
Parties can also reach their own agreement when modifying alimony or child support payments. There is a simple stipulation—the agreement must be ratified by the court. If that isn't done, the previous order wiill still stands, and the paying spouse could be accused of violating the order.
Support Order Enforcement
Pennsylvania courts can enforce alimony and support orders. Under Chapter 37, section 3703, a judge may enforce the order in the following ways:
- Enter a further judgment against the paying spouse.
- Authorize seizure of property, including payments received and investments, to cover the arrears.
- Arrange for a seizure of up to half of the paying spouse's wages.
- Increase the interest on payments.
- Require collateral or security for future payments.
If a Support Order is Violated
Support orders are in the domain of civil court orders which are legally binding. If the paying spouse doesn't make the required payments, or violates the order in any way, they could face contempt charges.
Contempt of court is a criminal rather than a civil matter. It's a potentially serious charge, and the paying spouse could face significant fines or up to six months in jail for a civil order violation.
A person who is struggling to make support payments should seek to modify the order rather than simply not make payments.
Retain an Erie County, Pennsylvania Support Attorney
If you have a family law matter in Erie County, PA, contact the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team today. Whether you need a court order or want to challenge an existing order, we're can help. We can represent you at court hearings, help you present the most compelling case in your favor, and ensure that you're treated fairly every step of the way.
You do not need to go through such a stressful and difficult time alone. Get the legal support, advice, and representation you deserve. Call (888) 535-3686 to arrange a meeting or tell us about your issue online.