Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania. The city itself has status as one of Pennsylvania's counties, and is the most populous county, with residents numbering over 1.5 million. Matters of law are handled in the Philadelphia County Court Of Common Pleas. The court handles matters of Family Law in the court's Family Division. The Family Division has a subdivision that directly relates to matters of child support and spousal support known as the Domestic Relations division.
Support Cases In Philadelphia County
When filing for child support or spousal support in Philadelphia County, the court sets forth a few prerequisites. The first of which is that the parent seeking child support must be able to prove that the child is currently living with them. The court refers to this as the child's standing. For ex-spouses seeking spousal support, these matters are usually determined during the divorce, however, spousal support can also be requested independent of a divorce. Philadelphia county makes use of the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines to determine appropriate amounts for child support. Support decisions are largely based off of the income of the parents and their obligations to the child.
Prior to any court decisions being made, the court will want participants in support cases to attempt to resolve their case through a pre-trial conference. Pre-trial conferences are held by a Hearing Officer, who uses the state guidelines to generate a support agreement. If both parties agree to the terms set by the Hearing Officer, then the agreement becomes a full order and will be signed by a judge. If the parties involved do not agree to the terms set forth, then the amount set by the guidelines becomes a temporary order, and the case will move forward to a hearing with a Support Master.
At the Support Master's hearing, both parties will be able to express their individual viewpoints and opinions on why they do not agree to the initial amounts set forth in the Temporary Order, and legal argument and relevant case law will be presented when a party is represented by an attorney. The master will then make a new order after hearing information from both sides.
If neither side objects, then the order will become final. Unlike the initial temporary order, if either side disagrees, they must go through a formal process. Parties who disagree with the Master's support order must file exceptions within 20 days after receiving the written support recommendation. This filing must explain clearly the party's stance on the order and why they disagree. After filing this exception, the case will move forward to a hearing with a judge, where the matter will be argued, and the judge will make a ruling. If the judge's decision is not acceptable to one of the parties, it must be appealed to the Superior Court, although such a course of action should only be considered as an absolute last resort.
When proceeding into a support battle, the best way to secure your interests in the matter is to enlist the services of an experienced family law attorney. Even during the initial support conference, an attorney can make sure you are prepared and you know what is ahead. If the matter proceeds further where formal rules of evidence are enforced and a proper legal argument is expected, legal counsel can make a huge difference in the outcome of a Support Master's hearing or an Exceptions hearing before a judge.
Ultimately, when engaging in any Family Law proceedings, it is important to do so with an attorney at your side. Support conferences, Support Master's hearings, and judicial Support Exceptions hearings can become contentious, and you want to have someone to advocate for your interests. If you or a loved one is involved in matters of spousal or child support, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.