It's never easy when a couple decides to separate or divorce. Alongside dealing with the legal process of finalizing the divorce, you must also consider various financial support issues. Specifically, you must understand whether either spouse is entitled to child and/or spousal support and how to claim this support from the other party.
Family law in PA is complicated, and you should not attempt to negotiate financial support alone. Instead, contact the LLF Law Firm for help. Our experienced Family Law Team will explain how the process works, and they'll ensure that your legal rights are respected. For a case evaluation, call 888.535.3686 or reach our attorneys online.
Do Spouses Have Financial Support Obligations?
When you're married in PA, you're assumed to have some degree of financial responsibility towards your spouse. This means, in simple terms, that you must support them financially if you can afford to do so. These obligations do not, however, extend to either party once the couple separates or divorces.
What happens, then, when spouses part ways? Generally, there are two types of financial support available in PA: child support and spousal support. A spouse may seek one or both types of support, depending on their needs.
Child Support in York County
In York County, child support is a court order that obliges one spouse to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of their child. It's usually paid by the parent who does not have primary custody to the parent who does have primary custody. This is because the child lives with the custodial parent.
The support should cover a child's reasonable and ordinary upkeep, including:
● Medical care
● Education expenses
Child support can also cover additional costs, including childcare expenses and health insurance.
Duration of Child Support
In most cases, child support only lasts while the child is under 18. However, the paying spouse may be required to support the child financially beyond this date if:
● The child is over 18 but still in high school.
● The child has physical disabilities or learning difficulties.
A parent is not required to support an emancipated child, even if they're under 18. At this point, the individual is deemed financially self-sufficient.
Calculating Child Support
There's a set process for calculating child support in York County. Specifically, family court judges will refer to PA's statewide Child Support Schedule. Although the figures contained in the schedule are not absolute, they do serve as a valuable starting point. To determine the actual figure awarded to the custodial spouse in each case, the courts will consider:
● The child's age at the time of the divorce.
● How much the paying spouse earns.
● The paying spouse's earning potential and existing assets.
● If the paying spouse already pays other related costs, e.g., spousal support.
● What (if any) special support needs the child has, e.g., complex medical conditions.
Overall, the court will attempt to allocate an amount of child support that reflects the child's best interests.
Spousal Support in York County
The idea behind spousal support is to prevent one spouse from suffering financial hardship after a relationship breakdown. The three main types of support are:
● Alimony: Post-divorce alimony allows one spouse to continue receiving support after the divorce is finalized. The support is for reasonable costs to prevent them from relying on state aid.
● Alimony Pendente Lite (APL): APL covers the transition period between starting proceedings and finalizing spousal support. It can't be active at the same time as spousal support.
● Spousal support: This support helps the dependent spouse financially for a specified period. It covers the period between separation and finalizing the divorce. The paying spouse is obliged to cover certain reasonable expenses.
How Long Spousal Support Lasts
The type of support awarded dictates how long the arrangement lasts. For example, some arrangements only last a short period until a divorce is finalized. Others last for months or longer. It all depends on the specific situation – your lawyer can explain how long spousal support may last in your case.
Calculating Spousal Support in York County, PA
Spousal support can be calculated based on factors such as:
● The dependent spouse's earning potential and current salary.
● The paying spouse's current earnings and earning potential.
● Whether the dependent spouse is limited or prevented from earning more money, e.g., they provide childcare so they can't work full time.
The courts also consider the duration of the marriage and whether either party has anticipated income, e.g., a family inheritance.
The York County Court Process
In PA, as noted, there's no automatic right to claim financial support after parties separate. The financially dependent spouse must trigger a court process to seek child and/or spousal support. The process begins the moment that the dependent spouse files for support.
Below, we will outline the main steps involved in this process. However, you should seek legal advice given the complexity of the proceedings involved and how much is at stake for you and your family. The LLF Law Firm can assist with any family-related matter, so do not hesitate to contact us should you require advice.
File for Child Support
Filing for child or spousal support in York County, PA, means following a specific process. The spouse seeking support should file a Claim for Support with the York County Domestic Relations Department within the York County Court of Common Pleas. The court may be found at:
York County Judicial Center
45 N George Street
York, PA 17401
You can also file online if preferable. Or you can call the courthouse at (717) 771-9605 for more information.
Ideally, support issues can be handled during an informal conference or meeting. This is known as a support conference. It takes place between both parties, their legal counsel, and a Support Master. The Master makes recommendations and helps to facilitate productive discussions. If parties reach an agreement, they'll sign a formal order confirming this.
It's often possible to resolve such matters alongside divorce proceedings. Your lawyer can explain, in more detail, how the process works in relation to your unique situation.
Should informal negotiations fail, the matter proceeds to a formal court hearing before a family court judge. You must always attend this hearing, or else the judge may reach a decision in your absence. Such a decision is unlikely to be in your favor.
At the hearing, both parties can present their case and explain their position. The judge will decide, based on these submissions, whether to grant or deny support. To ensure that you have the best chance at securing a favorable outcome, you should retain legal advice before attending any hearing. Our Family Law Team is waiting and ready to assist.
How to Appeal a Child or Spousal Support Decision
PA family law allows spouses to challenge or appeal a court decision if they have grounds to do so. To be clear, you can't appeal a decision just because you don't agree with it. You must have a legally valid reason for filing an appeal. Legal grounds include, for example, a judge misinterpreting the law or failing to give facts fair consideration.
To appeal a support order, you must file a Motion for Reconsideration with the York County Family Court. If the motion is granted, the court will reconsider the order and either award or deny the appeal. Your attorney can explain how this process works as it relates to your case.
Court Enforcement of Support Orders
Just as the court may grant support orders, they can also enforce them. If one party fails to meet their obligations, then the court can take various steps to enforce the order, including:
● Compelling the paying spouse to put up collateral towards future payments.
● Arresting or seizing the paying spouse's wages to cover the missed amount.
● Arranging to seize the paying spouse's property.
● Adding interest to future payments.
● Making other court orders against the paying spouse.
These are all possibly serious consequences. You must do everything possible to meet your obligations under a support order.
Child and Spousal Support Order Violations
Any court order, whether it's civil or criminal, carries consequences. It must be followed in its entirety, or else you risk serious penalties. Child and spousal support orders are no different.
Although they're civil orders, any violation is a criminal offense under PA law. This means that the offending party faces contempt of court charges for violating the order. Contempt carries penalties, including fines and even jail time for serious violations. Repeat offenders face more significant consequences.
Get legal advice immediately if you're unable to fulfill your obligations under an existing court order or if your spouse has violated a court order.
How to Modify a Support Order in York County
As noted, a court order is a legally binding document. However, the courts understand that situations evolve. What makes sense for one party financially right now may not be realistic a few months or years down the line. That's why it's possible to modify, or amend, child and spousal support orders.
There are two ways to modify a support order in York County, PA. You can either reach an agreement with your spouse and seek court confirmation, or you can petition the court directly for a modification. You may feel that it's best to reach an informal agreement with the other party; however, you must ask the court to confirm (ratify) the new agreement. If you don't, the original order remains in force, and any deviation from its terms is a violation.
If you have any concerns about an existing support order, you may wish to get legal advice before acting.
Why You Need an Experienced Family Lawyer
In any child and/or spousal support situation, you have certain legal rights. You deserve the fairest opportunity to enforce these rights – which is why you should always seek legal advice before attending any negotiations or court hearing. Specifically, here is how a York County family lawyer can assist you.
● Emotions can complicate matters or, in serious cases, even make it impossible for parties to negotiate. A family law attorney will advocate on your behalf and help to mediate the situation. They will help to keep discussions focused, amicable, and fair.
● Family law is complicated. If you don't fully understand your legal rights, you may end up paying more than necessary – or you won't receive the support you need. An attorney will ensure that your legal rights are respected and enforced.
● If you're unfamiliar with the court process, you may be unsure what evidence to provide or how to argue your case. Hiring an experienced lawyer removes this obstacle because they know what evidence is relevant and how to present the most compelling arguments in your favor.
● There's a very good chance that your spouse has their own attorney representing them. If you don't have an attorney on your side, then you're at a significant disadvantage.
Family law proceedings are complex, and there are many possible pitfalls. Don't run the risk of losing your case due to an avoidable error. Retain the services of the LLF Law Firm.
Retain Our Child and Spousal Support Lawyers in York County, PA
Every family is unique, which is why there's no singular approach to determining child and spousal support issues. Given how complex and emotionally difficult these matters can be, you deserve to feel fully supported through the entire process. That's why, at the LLF Law Firm, we make supporting you our priority.
We take the time to understand your concerns and your specific situation so we may offer the most personalized, relevant advice. Whether you're seeking financial support or concerned about a support order, we're with you every step of the way. Our goal is to empower you to make the right decisions for your family's future – so you may feel confident moving forward. With us on your side, you can approach support negotiations with confidence.
Do everything possible to protect your legal interests. Don't leave anything to chance. Contact our experienced Family Law Team now online or call 888.535.3686 to schedule a meeting. The LLF Law Firm looks forward to meeting you.