Family breakups are emotional and stressful for everyone involved. It can seem as if your world's been turned upside-down. All of a sudden, your kids might be splitting their time between your and your ex's separate homes. Finances can suddenly be tight as parents adjust to single incomes — if they're employed at all.
Although it's possible to file for child or spousal support in Schuylkill County without a lawyer, with so much at stake, you shouldn't attempt it on your own. The Family Law Team at The Lento Law Firm has years of experience helping Schuylkill 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 any kids they have together for as long as they're married to each other. When spouses decide to go their separate ways through separation or divorce, so much changes for everyone in the family, including the nature of financial support. The now ex-spouses have to figure out the finances for separate households, including who will pay for the kids' expenses and whether one spouse will support the other. If they can't agree on child and spousal support, the family court will decide for them.
Child Support Payments in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, child support payments are made by one spouse to the other to cover the costs of raising the children and are designed to cover kids' basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing. Child support payments are usually made by the parent who doesn'thave custody of the kids to the parent who does have custody of them.
In Schuylkill County, child support is a court-ordered payment arrangement that requires one parent to make payments to the other to support the children. An Attachment of Income Order is issued immediately after the Court issues a support order. It tells the paying spouse's employer to deduct the support payment amount from their pay. The paying spouse has to make payments out of their own pocket until the payroll deduction kicks in.
How Child Support Is Calculated in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, many factors can affect whether a spouse gets child or spousal support and how much. Whether spouses are separated, have filed for divorce, or are officially divorced can all affect support. Pennsylvania courts also use guidelines and formulas to help them make their decisions. These guidelines track basic cost of living expenses and income and change depending on how many children are involved.
Calculating Child Support in Schuylkill County
- The child's age
- The other spouse's assets and income
- Whether the child has any specific or special needs, such as a disability or medical condition
- Any other household income, such as rental or investment income
- Other household financial obligations
In addition to these considerations, the courts will also place great emphasis on the child's best interests.
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.
Spousal Support in Pennsylvania
Spousal support payments in Pennsylvania are made by one spouse to the other to support them financially. The purpose of these payments is to protect a financially dependent spouse from financial difficulty. Some spousal support agreements cover a short period of time — such as the time it takes for a divorce to be finalized — while others last for many years.
Types of Spousal Support in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, several kinds of spousal support are available. The type of support a spouse receives depends on many factors.
General spousal support payments are made while spouses are separated but not yet officially divorced. These payments enable one spouse to pay for their basic living expenses and any other reasonable expenses.
Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) is a support that's available when one spouse actually files for divorce. APL can be given while a divorce is pending, but a spouse can't receive both APL and spousal support at the same time.
Courts sometimes award post-divorce alimony, which are ongoing support payments that are made to the financially dependent spouse. These payments can continue after the divorce is finalized and cover the spouse's basic reasonable expenses.
Equitable reimbursement is another form of financial support that's available in Pennsylvania. It allows a spouse to complete their education or training so they can increase their earning potential.
The experienced attorneys on the Lento Law Firm's Family Law Team can help you determine which 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 will consider things such as:
- The duration of the marriage
- Whether the spouses are separated
- Whether a spouse has filed for divorce
- Each spouse's income
- Each spouse's education and earning potential
- Any limitations to a spouse's earning potential — such as a disability or the fact that they're raising children full-time
- Money that's expected in the future, such as an inheritance
Keep in mind that there's no automatic right to alimony in Pennsylvania. The Court might allow alimony payments only if 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 you're entitled to and how to get it.
Court Orders for Child and Spousal Support in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, a spouse who's seeking child or spousal support typically files for it, and if they get it, a Pennsylvania family court judge issues a court order that outlines the terms of the agreement, including the payment amount and other payment obligations.
Generally, support actions should 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 for other extenuating circumstances.
Violating a support order can land you in serious hot water. A spouse who doesn't make their support payments can face criminal contempt charges and wind up in jail.
The Court Process in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
Child and spousal support procedures follow county and state laws and rules. The process can be complicated, but the experienced Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm can help you figure it all out.
In Schuylkill County, a child support action begins when the custodian of a child or a dependent spouse applies for support by appearing at the Domestic Relations Office Courthouse, which is located at 401 North Second Street, Pottsville, PA 17901. The Domestic Relations Office then prepares a complaint for support. Office staff will then interview you to gather the information they need to complete the complaint for support.
Divorce actions in Schuylkill County are filed at the office of the Prothonotary at Schuylkill County Courthouse, located at 401 N. Second Street, Pottsville, PA 17901.
The process for obtaining support orders involves conferences where the parties get together to try to agree on support terms – such as payment amounts and frequency. These conferences can help the parties figure out the support amounts and avoid going to Court.
Knowing where to file can be tricky because it varies depending on where you are in the process. Generally, in Schuylkill County, anyone seeking spousal and child support should file with the county's Domestic Relations Office, and the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas handles child support and spousal support cases. The experienced attorneys at the Lento Law Firm can help you navigate the family court system.
Filing for Support in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
In Schuylkill County, a child support action begins when the custodian of a child or a dependent spouse applies for support by appearing at:
Domestic Relations Office Courthouse
401 North Second Street
Pottsville, PA 17901
The Domestic Relations Office then prepares a complaint for support. A staff member will interview the person who applied and gather the information they need to complete the complaint.
A complaint for Alimony Pendente Lite should be filed with the Schuylkill County Domestic Relations Section. The claim follows the same process as other support complaints; 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 many different rules and procedures to figure out. 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 a very important part of the support process. In many cases, the spouses will figure out a support amount during the conference, which, in many cases, eliminates the need for a judicial hearing. If the parties can't agree on an amount during the conference and the case does go to a hearing, the process usually goes quicker because of all the information that's gathered during the conference.
Even if the parties agree on an amount of support, the conference officer can still recommend that the Court reject it. This is supposed to protect a spouse who's in financial straits from agreeing to an unfair amount of support out of desperation.
For child support filings in Schuylkill County, a conference is scheduled in front of a Conference Officer at the Domestic Relations Office. If the parties are able to agree on an amount of support, the Court will confirm it.
If the parties can't reach an agreement, the Conference Officer will recommend an amount of support based on state guidelines, and the Court will issue a support order. If either party disagrees with the order, they have ten days to file a written Demand for Hearing. The case will then be assigned to a Hearing Officer who then schedules a formal hearing.
Support conferences are overseen by court-appointed Masters who specialize in either spousal or child support. They work with the parties and help them nail down their agreement. 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 Schuylkill County, after a complaint for support 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.
Appealing a Support Decision in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
It's possible to appeal a support order decision. In Schuylkill 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.
In Schuylkill County, if a spouse disagrees with a support order, they have ten days to file a written Demand for Hearing. After that, the case is assigned to a Hearing Officer who schedules a formal hearing.
Modifying a Court 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. In most cases, either party can petition the Court for a modification. In Schuylkill County, A support order can be modified only if there's been a substantial change in circumstance since the support order was entered.
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.
Enforcing a Support Order in Schuylkill County
If your ex isn't making support payments, you can 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
Schuylkill County has a child support enforcement program. County, state, and federal governments work together to enforce child support obligations. Some of the things they do is locate absent parents, help the parents establish paternity, get the IRS involved, report the non-paying spouse to credit reporting agencies, and help parents provide health insurance coverage to their kids.
If you're not getting the support payments you're entitled to by law, the experienced attorneys at the Lento Law Firm can help you determine the best way to enforce your support order.
Violating a Child or Spousal Support Order
A spouse who doesn't make their spousal support payments can get 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.
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
Although you don't need a lawyer to file for child or spousal support in Schuylkill County, hiring an experienced family law attorney will give you the best chance of getting the highest support amount possible. An experienced attorney can help you avoid costly mistakes like filing the wrong paperwork or missing important deadlines and help you gather the important evidence you need to tell your side of the story.
Child and spousal support cases are emotional and intense. You don't have to go through the process alone. The Lento Law Firm's Family Law Team has many years of experience successfully representing clients throughout Schuylkill County. We know the ins and outs of the Schuylkill County family court system and can guide and support you every step of the way.
Retain a Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, Child and Spousal Support Attorney
If you're a Schuylkill County resident and have questions or problems about child support, spousal support, or anything related to family law, contact the experienced Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm. Whether you're looking to enforce a child support order, are struggling to make spousal support payments, or need help filing paperwork, our knowledgeable team is here for you. We can help you respond to court requests, represent you at hearings, and work with you to ensure that your side of the story is heard. Call 888-535-3686 to get the support you need, or tell us about your case online.