When families break apart because of separation or divorce, it's incredibly stressful for everyone. Family members have to adjust to a new way of living, which can be emotional and exhausting. Siblings who used to live in the same home might live apart and have to go back and forth between two separate homes. Finances are different, too, and one of the biggest changes is that one parent might be making payments to the other. Child and spousal support become part of everyday life.
Although it's possible to get child or spousal support in Lackawanna County without a lawyer, you shouldn't handle such an important matter on your own. The Family Law Team at The Lento Law Firm has many years of experience helping Lackawanna County residents obtain the best child and spousal support. Call us at 888-535-3686, or tell us about your case online.
Expectation of Support Under Pennsylvania Law
In Pennsylvania, married spouses are expected to financially support each other and their kids for as long as they're married. When spouses get separated or divorced, this financial support obligation changes. The now ex-spouses have to figure out who will pay for the kids' expenses and whether one spouse will support the other. If they can't agree on these issues, the family court will make the decision for them.
Child Support Payments in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, child support payments cover kids' basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing. The parent who doesn'thave custody of the kids generally makes payments to the parent who has custody of them.
The state's Child Support Program (SCDU) handles payments and processes them through the Pennsylvania Child Support Program (PACSES) system.
How Child Support Is Calculated in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, how much child or spousal support a spouse gets depends on many things. For example, if spouses are separated, if one of them has filed for divorce, or if they're officially divorced, all affect the amount and kind of support they'll get.
Pennsylvania courts use guidelines and formulas to help them calculate support amounts. These guidelines take into account things like the spouses' income, the cost of living in the county where they or the kids live, and how many children are involved.
Calculating Child Support in Lackawanna County
In Lackawanna County, child support is based primarily on state guidelines and the "Income Shares Model," which is the idea that children should receive the same proportion of their parent's income that they would've received if their parents didn't split up.
Each spouse's net monthly income is a major factor in determining support amounts. The PACSES generates a support amount based on income information and state guidelines. There's a rebuttable presumption in Lackawanna County that this amount is accurate and correct.
Lackawanna County also spells out how they calculate support when some or all of the children involved are in the foster care system.
How Long Child Support Lasts in Pennsylvania
In most cases, child support payments in Pennsylvania last until a child turns 18, or until they're legally emancipated. Sometimes, support payments can last longer if the child needs long-term support – if a child has special needs or a disability that prevents them from working or living on their own; for example, support payments might last long after the child turns 18.
Generally, if a paying spouse still owes some support payments when the support period ends, they'll have to continue to make payments until they pay off everything they owe.
Spousal Support in Pennsylvania
Spousal support payments in Pennsylvania are made by one spouse to the other generally to protect the financially dependent spouse from financial hardship. Some spousal support agreements last for a short period of time — such as the time it takes for a divorce to be finalized — while others can last for many years. Support amounts and payment terms vary from case to case.
Types of Spousal Support in Pennsylvania
Several kinds of spousal support are available in Pennsylvania. The amount and type of support a spouse receives depend on many factors.
General spousal support payments are available when spouses are separated but aren't officially divorced. With these payments, one spouse pays for the other spouse's basic living expenses.
Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) is support that's available when one spouse has officially filed for divorce. APL can be awarded while a divorce is pending, but a spouse can't receive APL and spousal support at the same time.
Post-divorce alimony refers to ongoing payments that are made to the financially dependent spouse. They cover the spouse's basic expenses and can continue after the spouses are divorced.
Equitable reimbursement is another form of support available in Pennsylvania. It lets a spouse complete their training or education so they can improve their careers and earning potential.
The Lento Law Firm's experienced Family Law Team can help you figure out which kind of support you're entitled to, how much support you're entitled to, and how to go about getting it.
How Spousal Support Is Calculated in Pennsylvania
The amount of support a spouse is entitled to in Pennsylvania varies from case to case and depends on many things, such as:
- How long the spouses were married
- Whether the spouses have officially separated
- Whether one spouse has filed for divorce
- Each spouse's income and earning potential
- Each spouse's education
- Whether a spouse has a disability that limits their earning potential
- Whether one spouse raises the children full-time
- Whether either spouse is expecting money sometime in the future, such as an inheritance
In Pennsylvania, spouses aren't automatically entitled to alimony. Alimony payments might be allowed only when it's reasonable and necessary under the circumstances. If you're unsure about how much spousal support you're entitled to, contact the experienced Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm. We'll help you figure out how much support you're entitled to, and we'll work hard to help you get it.
Court Orders for Child and Spousal Support in Pennsylvania
A spouse who's seeking child or spousal support in Pennsylvania typically files for it, and then a family court judge issues a court order that outlines the terms of the support, including the payment amount and payment obligations.
Generally, support actions are supposed to be brought in the county where the kids and the paying parent live, but this can change if, for example, the parties live in different states.
Anyone who violates a support order risks getting into big trouble. A spouse who doesn't make their support payments can face criminal contempt charges and wind up in jail.
The Court Process in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania
Child and spousal support procedures in Pennsylvania follow state and county laws and rules. The process can be complicated, but the experienced attorneys at the Lento Law Firm can help you figure it all out.
In Lackawanna County, the Domestic Relations Section establishes and enforces child and spousal support obligations. It's part of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas and is located at:
123 Wyoming Avenue
Scranton, PA 18503.
You have to make an appointment to see a support officer. The process for getting a support order involves attending support conferences. The parties get together to try to figure out support terms, such as how much money a spouse will get and how often they'll get it. These conferences can help the parties figure out support amounts and maybe even save them from having to go to court. The process can also involve hearings. At every step of the way, there are forms to file and deadlines to meet.
Knowing what to file and when can be tough because it varies depending on what stage of the process you're in. The experienced attorneys at the Lento Law Firm can help you navigate the complicated family court system.
Filing for Support in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania
In Lackawanna County, the process of filing for support closely follows the process that's laid out on the Pennsylvania Child Support website. You can file at the Lackawanna County Domestic Relations Section or through the state's e-filing system.
A complaint for Alimony Pendente Lite should also be filed with the Lackawanna County Domestic Relations Office or electronically through the Pennsylvania Child Support website. The Lento Law Firm can help you file for the support you need and deserve.
Support Conferences in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, the domestic relations office conference is an important part of the support process. Spouses will often agree to a support amount during the conference, which, in many cases, saves the parties the trouble of having to attend a hearing. If the parties can't agree on an amount during the conference and the case does wind up at a hearing, the process usually moves along faster because of all of the information that's collected during the conference.
Even if the parties agree on an amount of support, the conference officer can tell the court not to accept it. This can protect spouses who are struggling financially from agreeing to unfair support amounts out of desperation.
The experienced Lento Law Firm attorneys can be extremely helpful at support conferences and hearings. We'll look out for your best interests and help you tell your side of the story.
What Happens After a Complaint for Support Is Filed?
Generally, after a complaint for support is filed in Lackawanna County, the case is assigned to a conference officer and scheduled for an informal conference. If the parties agree on support amounts during the conference, they'll sign a support agreement, which is forwarded to a judge who will issue a support order.
If they don't agree on an amount, the conference officer will recommend one, and the agreement will serve as an interim support order. If either party doesn't agree with the amount, they have 20 days to request a hearing. At the hearing, both parties will have a chance to provide evidence to support their side of the story, and a final order will be set based on the information the spouses provide.
Appealing a Support Decision in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania
Depending on the circumstances, it might be possible to appeal a support order decision. The process in Lackawanna County generally follows the state's appeal process. The spouse who wants to appeal a support order has 20 days to do so; they have to file a demand for a hearing with the Lackawanna County Domestic Relations Section.
The experienced Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm can help you figure out if an appeal is the best course of action in your situation and, if so, how to go about filing a successful appeal.
Modifying a Support Order
It's possible that at some point, one or both parties may want or need to modify a child or spousal support order. In Lackawanna County, a spouse who wants to modify a support order has to show a "substantial and material change" in their circumstances, such as additional income, a change in custody, the death of one of the spouses, increases in childcare expenses, and the emancipation of a child.
A spouse who wants to modify an existing support order should submit a Petition for Modification to the Lackawanna County Domestic Relations Section (DRS) or through the state's E-Services website. You'll attend a conference to talk about your modification request, where the DRS will decide if they'll change the support order. The experienced Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm can help you with every step of the modification process.
Enforcing a Support Order in Lackawanna County
If your ex isn't making their support payments, you can ask the court to enforce your support order. Pennsylvania judges can enforce support orders in many ways, such as:
- Adding interest to support payments
- Entering another judgment against the non-paying spouse
- Making the non-paying spouse to put up collateral for their future support payments
- Seizing the non-paying spouse's property and up to half of their wages.
In Lackawanna County, if a spouse doesn't make their support payments or otherwise comply with their support order, in addition to the enforcement options that are available under state law, the county can:
- Attach a non-paying spouse's unemployment and/or workers' comp benefits
- Take the matter to Enforcement Court
- Use an electronic funds transfer, pay-by-phone, pay by credit card payment
- Intercept a non-paying spouse's IRS refund
- Report a non-paying spouse to the credit bureaus
- Suspend a non-paying spouse's driver's license
The Domestic Relations Section also posts photos of what they call Most Wanted "Domestic Relations Fugitives" – people who are delinquent in their support payments and didn't appear at their shield or spousal support hearings. If you're not getting the support payments you're entitled to, contact the experienced attorneys at the Lento Law Firm for help.
Violating a Child or Spousal Support Order
Anyone who violates a support order by not making their child or spousal support payments risks getting into serious trouble. Support orders are legally binding court orders, so anyone who doesn't make support payments can face criminal contempt charges. Basically, if you don't pay your support payments, you could wind up in jail.
In Lackawanna County, a spouse who violates a support order can be charged with contempt of court, which can land them in jail for six months. The court can also suspend the non-paying spouse's professional licenses, passport, driver's license, and hunting and fishing privileges. The non-paying spouse might also find themselves listed as a "Domestic Relations Fugitive” on the county's Most Wanted website.
If you're having trouble making your child or spousal support payments or aren't receiving your support payments, you should seek immediate legal advice. The Lento Law Firm's knowledgeable Family Law Team can help you figure out what to do.
Why You Need an Experienced Family Law Attorney
Working with an experienced family law attorney who's knowledgeable about the family law process in Lackawanna County will give you the best chance of resolving your support and family law issues and obtaining all of the support you're entitled to and deserve. An experienced attorney can also help you avoid making costly mistakes and ensure that you get to tell your side of the story.
The Lento Law Firm's Family Law Team has many years of experience successfully representing clients throughout Lackawanna County. We know the ins and outs of the family court system and can guide and support you every step of the way. Child and spousal support cases can be emotional and intense. You don't have to go through the process alone.
Retain a Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, Child and Spousal Support Attorney
Lackawanna County residents who have questions about child support, spousal support, or anything related to Pennsylvania family law should contact the experienced Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm. Whether you're looking to file for child support, are struggling to make your spousal support payments, want to make your ex pay past due child support, or need help filing paperwork or preparing for a hearing, our knowledgeable team is here for you. Call us at 888-535-3686, or tell us about your case online.