When a family breaks up, everything changes, and everyone has to adjust to a new normal. Kids might split their time between their parents' separate homes, and finances that used to be under one roof are also separate now. One of the biggest changes is that one parent might be making support payments to the other.
Although it's possible to get child or spousal support in Luzerne County without a lawyer, you shouldn't handle such an important matter alone. The Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm has years of experience helping Luzerne County residents with family law matters like child support, spousal support, and divorce. 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 are supposed to cover kids' basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing. In general, the parent who doesn'thave custody of the kids makes payments to the parent who does have custody of them.
Payments are made to the state's Child Support Program (SCDU). The Pennsylvania Child Support Program (PACSES) is the system the state uses for support obligations.
How Child Support Is Calculated in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, whether a spouse gets child or spousal support and how much they get depends on many things. If spouses are separated, have filed for divorce, or are officially divorced, this can affect their support.
Pennsylvania courts also use guidelines and formulas to help them make their decisions. These guidelines track basic cost of living expenses, income, and vary based on how many children are involved.
Calculating Child Support in Luzerne County
In Luzerne County, child support is based on state guidelines and average monthly net income, including wages, income from pensions, social security benefits, disability benefits, tax refunds, interest, and dividends. Things like earning capacity, age, education, work experience, and how many children are being supported are also taken into consideration.
The guidelines are based on the idea that the child should receive the same proportion of their parent's income that they would've received if their parents hadn't separated or divorced.
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 — for example, if the child has special needs or a disability that prevents them from living on their own.
In Luzerne County, child support continues until:
- The child is 18 and has graduated from high school
- The child isn't yet 18 but has graduated from high school and is working
- The child is adopted
- The spouses reconcile and get back together
- The child leaves the household
If support payments are still due when the support period ends, the paying spouse has to continue to make payments until they pay all of their missed payments in full.
Spousal Support in Pennsylvania
Spousal support payments in Pennsylvania are made by one spouse to the other 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.
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 apply when spouses are separated but not yet officially divorced. These payments enable one spouse to pay for the other spouse's basic living expenses and other reasonable expenses.
Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) is support that's available when one spouse actually files for divorce. APL can be awarded while a divorce is pending. A spouse can't receive both spousal support and APL at the same time.
Post-divorce alimony consists of ongoing support payments to the financially dependent spouse. These payments cover the spouse's basic reasonable expenses and can continue after the divorce is finalized.
Equitable reimbursement is another form of support that's available in Pennsylvania. It allows a spouse to complete their training or education or training so they can increase their 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 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 depends on many things and varies from case to case. The courts consider things including:
- How long the parties have been married
- Whether the parties are separated
- Whether one spouse has filed for divorce
- The income of each spouse
- The education and earning potential of each spouse
- If there are any limitations to a spouse's earning potential such as a disability or if they're raising children full-time
- If there's any money that's expected in the future, such as an inheritance or other windfall
There's no automatic right to alimony in Pennsylvania. Courts might allow alimony payments where it's reasonable and necessary under the circumstances. If you're unsure about how much spousal support you're entitled to, contact the Lento Law Firm. We'll help you figure out how much support you're entitled to, and we'll work with you to 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 if they get it, a family court judge will issue a court order that outlines the terms of the support, including the payment amount and other 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 the parties live in different states or if there are other extenuating circumstances.
Violating a support order can land you in serious trouble. A spouse who doesn't make their support payments can face criminal contempt charges and wind up in jail or paying a substantial fine.
The Court Process in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Child and spousal support procedures in Pennsylvania follow county and state 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 Luzerne County a support action begins when anyone who's owed a duty of support files an action for support at the Intake Office of the Domestic Relations Section at the Wilkes-Barre or Hazelton offices, which are located at:
113 West North Street
Wilkes Barre, PA 18711
701 North Church Street
Hazelton, PA 18201.
In Luzerne County, some divorces are referred to Family Court for finalization by a Master in Divorce.
The process for obtaining support orders involves conferences where the parties get together to try to figure out support terms, such as how much money a spouse will receive and how often payments will be made. These conferences can help the parties figure out the support amounts without having to go to Court.
Knowing where to file for what can be tough because it varies depending on what stage you're at in the process. Generally, in Luzerne County, anyone seeking spousal and child support should file with the county's Domestic Relations Section. The experienced attorneys at the Lento Law Firm can help you navigate the complicated family court system.
Filing for Support in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
In Luzerne County anyone who's owed a duty of support can file an action for support at the Intake Office of the domestic Relations Section at the Wilkes-Barre or Hazelton offices, which are located at:
113 West North Street
Wilkes Barre, PA 18711
701 North Church Street
Hazelton, PA 18201.
A complaint for Alimony Pendente Lite should also be filed with the Luzerne County Domestic Relations Section, and the same process applies – namely, there will be a conference, followed by an agreement or a recommended order, and any exceptions will go to a hearing officer. There are so many different rules and procedures to figure out and follow. The Lento Law Firm can help you understand where and how to file for support in Schuylkill County.
Support Conferences in Pennsylvania
The domestic relations office conference is an important part of the support process in Pennsylvania. In many cases, the spouses will agree to a support amount during the conference, which, in many cases, eliminates the need for a hearing. If the parties can't agree on an amount during the conference and the case goes to a hearing, the process usually moves along quicker because so much information is gathered during the conference.
Even if the parties agree on an amount of support, the conference officer can recommend that the Court rejects that amount. This is so the Court can protect spouses who are in financial straits from agreeing to unfair amounts of support out of desperation.
In Luzerne County, Conference Officers hold a conference to establish the amount of child or spousal support. Conference Officers are usually able to recommend an amount that both parties agree to. If they do, the parties sign the agreement, which becomes a court order after it's reviewed and signed by a Judge.
If they can't agree on a support amount, the Conference Officer puts together a Proposed Order of Support. The parties have 20 days to request a Hearing in front of a conference Master. The proposed order becomes an interim order, and support payments have to start immediately. If the paying spouse is employed, an Income Attachment also goes into effect.
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?
In Luzerne County, after a complaint is filed, a conference is scheduled with a Conference Officer at the Domestic Relations Office. If the parties agree on a support amount, their agreement is documented and confirmed by the Court. If they don't reach an agreement, the Conference Officer will recommend an amount based on state guidelines, and the Court will issue a support order. If paternity has to be established at this point, the matter gets referred to the county Paternity Support Officer.
Appealing a Support Decision in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
It's possible to appeal a support order decision. In Luzerne County, this is done by filing a Motion for Reconsideration with the Family Court. The motion must be filed on time and follow the rules to the letter. 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, draft the motion, and submit it to the Court on time so you have the best chance of success.
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. For example, they may want to increase the payment amount or change the payment schedule.
The parties can also agree on their own to modify a child or spousal support payment agreement, but their new agreement must be ratified by the Court. If this isn't done, the previous order remains in effect, and the paying spouse could be found in violation of the original order. The Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm can help ensure that your modification reflects your intentions and follows all applicable laws.
To modify a support order in Luzerne County, you have to file a Petition for Modification or Termination through the Domestic Relations Section. A Support Order can be changed only if there's been a "material and substantial change in circumstances since the order was made," – such as a salary increase or a job loss. Usually, a court won't modify an order if a spouse quits their job or voluntarily takes a lower-paying job. In most cases, a support conference has to be held, and it won't be scheduled until at least 180 days after the original order was issued.
Modification of an alimony order must be done through the family court, not the Domestic Relations Section.
Enforcing a Support Order in Luzerne County
If your ex isn't making support payments, one of the things you can do is ask the Court to enforce your support order. Pennsylvania judges can enforce these orders in many ways. For example, a judge can:
- Add interest to the child or spousal payments
- Enter another judgment against the spouse who isn't making the support payments
- Require the non-paying spouse to put up collateral or security for future payments
- Seize the non-paying spouse's property to cover their missed payments
- Seize up to 50 percent of the defaulting spouse's wages
In Luzerne County, the Domestic Relations Section is responsible for enforcing support orders. In addition to the methods of collection allowed by state law, the county has other methods of enforcing and collecting support, including:
- Intercepting lottery winnings
- Publishing the non-paying spouse's name and delinquent amount in local newspapers
- Suspending the non-paying spouse's driver's license
- Suspending the non-paying spouse's professional license
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. Spousal support orders are legally binding court orders, so anyone who doesn't make spousal support payments can face criminal contempt charges. Bottom line? If you don't pay your spousal support payments, you could wind up in jail or be saddled with a hefty fine.
In Luzerne County, the Domestic Relations Section can seek a Petition for Contempt of Court for a spouse who doesn't make their support payments, refuses to find a job, or refuses to get job training. If the spouse is in contempt, they can go to jail, be placed on probation, and be fined. If a non-paying spouse misses a hearing, they can be arrested.
If you're having trouble making your spousal support payments, you should seek immediate legal advice. The Lento Law Firm's knowledgeable Family Law Team can help you figure out a way forward.
Why You Need an Experienced Family Law Attorney
Working with an experienced family law attorney who's knowledgeable about the family law process in Luzerne County will give you the best chance of resolving your support and family law issues. An experienced attorney can help you avoid making costly mistakes and help 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 Luzerne 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 Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Child and Spousal Support Attorney
Luzerne County residents who have questions or problems about child support, spousal support, or anything related to family law should contact the experienced Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm. Whether you're looking to file for child support, enforce a spousal support order, are struggling to make support payments, or need help preparing for a hearing, our knowledgeable team is here for you. Call us at 888-535-3686, or tell us about your case online.