Child and Spousal Support Matters in Monroe County, Pennsylvania

When a couple decides to divorce, it's important to divide the value of their marital estate in ways that are fair to both parties. Similarly, when the married or unmarried parents of a minor child opt to go their separate ways, it's important to set up formal child custody, parenting time, and support arrangements to better ensure that the child receives appropriate financial and practical support from each of their parents.

The state generally allows divorcing spouses and the parents of minor children to reach mutually agreeable terms concerning property division and support. Yet, some former couples are unable to reach such agreements via attorney-led negotiation and/or mediation. Under these circumstances, cases filed in the civil court's Domestic Relations Office in Monroe County, PA, are decided by the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas. Both of these offices are located within the Monroe County Courthouse, housed at 610 Monroe St, Stroudsburg, PA 18360.

If you are navigating a divorce and/or child custody and support matter, it's vitally important to seek experienced legal counsel before committing to any particular plan of action. Once the court hands down legally enforceable orders, you'll be bound by the terms of those orders if/until they expire or are formally modified. Given the stakes of the situation at hand, you'll want to connect with the respected LLF Family Law Team to begin exploring your rights and options under the law. You can schedule a consultation today by calling 888.535.3686 or by reaching out to our compassionate team online.

Legal Expectation of Parental Support

In Pennsylvania, as in other states in the U.S., parents are expected to financially support their children until they reach the age of majority (and possibly longer if their disabilities or significant medical conditions warrant greater support). Similarly, married spouses are expected to support one another financially whenever possible. When spouses decide to initiate divorce proceedings, the following kinds of support may come into play:

  • Child support: Regular payments made by one parent to the other to be used for raising their child and generally maintaining that child's standard of living between households.
  • Spousal support: Also known as alimony or spousal maintenance, spousal support consists of specific financial payments made by one spouse to the other that continue for a pre-determined period of time unless the court approves a formal modification of an arrangement that has already been ordered.

While virtually all children are entitled to child support from one of their divorced or unmarried and estranged parents, a spouse's entitlement to support is dependent upon a number of factors explored further below.

Child Support: The Basics

Child support is a payment arrangement between parents that is formalized by the courts and subject to a legally enforceable order. A family's order details the responsibility of one parent to provide regular financial payments to the other so that their child can be better supported financially. Although support payments are designed to meet a child's needs, the parent who makes payments cannot dictate how the other parent spends them. Most often, it is the parent who spends less time with the child and/or is significantly more affluent who is ordered to make payments to their co-parent.

Calculating Child Support Obligations

Each state regulates child support in its own way. Pennsylvania utilizes a codified measurement system when the courts calculate child support payment obligations. The judge assigned to a child's case will take a variety of factors into consideration when awarding support. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Each parent's income.
  • The age of the child.
  • Each household's assets, including investments.
  • Whether the child has specific support needs due to a significant medical condition, etc.
  • Whether the parent being ordered to make payments has additional financial obligations, including child support for another child and/or spousal support.

As they do with custody matters, the courts make child support determinations based on a child's best interests. Meaning if an “ordinary” approach to child support calculation would somehow harm a child's interests, the court may order a higher award than it would under relatively average circumstances.

How Long Do Child Support Orders Remain in Effect?

Most child support orders remain in effect until a child reaches the age of majority (which is 18 in Pennsylvania), graduates from high school, or is emancipated. However, some orders are extended into a child's adulthood if the child in question has extraordinary medical needs or a significant disability and could significantly benefit from additional support.

Spousal Support: The Basics

Not all spousal support ordered in Pennsylvania operates in the same ways. There are different kinds of spousal support that serve the interests of those who are transitioning from married to single life. Most are designed to help spouses who are financially dependent. Some last for a short while, others last longer. The unique circumstances of each couple's situation influence the type of support that may be ordered and how long an order is kept in place.

Types of Spousal Support

There are generally five approaches to spousal support employed in Pennsylvania, although some are more common than others. Each spouse who may be in a position to seek support will need to evaluate their particular need before committing to a specific approach. Their options broadly include:

  • Voluntary spousal reimbursement: Payments received as part of mutually agreed-upon divorce settlement terms, usually paid in exchange for the right to keep significant marital assets outright instead of dividing their value.
  • Spousal support: Payments made to a dependent spouse to cover reasonable expenses before a divorce is finalized.
  • Equitable reimbursement: Payments made to support a dependent spouse's efforts to increase their earning potential, usually by seeking education or pursuing job training.
  • Alimony Pendente Lite (APL): Payments made prior to the finalization of a divorce that is usually triggered by a formal divorce filing, not a “mere” informal or formal separation, as is often the case with spousal support payments as described above.
  • Post-divorce alimony: Payments made after a divorce are finalized to meet a dependent spouse's ongoing reasonable expenses.

How Is Spousal Support Calculated?

When a couple mutually agrees on the terms of a spousal support and/or alimony agreement, it can be calculated in whatever way the affected spouses deem fair. In a contested divorce situation, courts will award such maintenance only when doing so is considered reasonable and necessary. When making determinations of whether spousal support of any kind is warranted, courts consider numerous factors, including:

  • How long the couple was married.
  • The earning potential of each spouse.
  • Additional anticipated income, such as investment payouts.
  • The actual income of each spouse.
  • Concerns that may prevent spouses from reaching their earning potential, such as a degenerative health condition or the need to raise children with special needs.

As a result, there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula that is employed when calculating spousal support. One couple's arrangement may differ significantly from another's.

Filing for Support in Monroe County, Pennsylvania

In a contentious family law scenario, it's usually the adult who is seeking support who will file for child and/or spousal support. When either kind of support is awarded in Pennsylvania, a judge will formalize their orders, and these orders will then become legally enforceable. Before an order is formalized, the parties will generally attend conferences to reach mutually agreeable terms in order to avoid compelling a judge to resolve the situation.

Support Conferences

Most of the time, parties who are navigating a support matter attend a negotiation conference or series of conferences in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable and fair solution. Note that child support matters cannot reach the conference phase of the process until the paternity of a child has been established in most cases.

When a support conference is convened, a court-appointed Master oversees the process. A Master acts much like a mediator does in that they help to facilitate fruitful discussion between the parties. The attorneys for each party may or may not be permitted to attend conferences directly, depending on the circumstances of the particular matter in question. However, attorneys can provide preparation and coaching services in the event that they can't advocate on behalf of their clients directly during a conference. Only if parties can't reach an agreement will their dispute be referred to a hearing so that a judge can decide how the matter should be resolved.

Why You Need an Attorney

While you aren't technically required to hire an attorney to pursue, negotiate, or contest support in Pennsylvania, having an experienced legal professional advocating on behalf of your interests can better ensure that your situation is resolved favorably, that your rights are protected as your case unfolds, and that you receive all of the consideration that you are due.

Support matters are often highly contentious and are subject to strict deadlines. By allowing the LLF Law Firm to manage your support case on your behalf, we can take a great deal of the stress and practical burdens associated with your legal situation off of your shoulders so that you can focus your energy elsewhere during this critical transition period. We never make guarantees about specific cases, as doing so would be unfair and unethical. But you can be assured that if you entrust your case to us, we'll do our utmost to ensure that your matter is resolved as favorably as possible.

Appealing a Support Decision

It's possible to appeal a support decision in Pennsylvania courts, although it's not an easy or straightforward process. The LLF Law Firm's Family Law Team can help you file a Motion for Reconsideration, provided that the motion is made before strict deadlines for appeal have expired.

Violating a Support Order

Both child and spousal support orders, once formalized by the court, are legally binding. As a result, their terms cannot be violated without the risk of potentially severe consequences, including a contempt of court charge that could result in fines and/or jail time. As a result, willfully violating a support order should not be treated as a viable option by either party to that order.

In the event that a party to a child or spousal support order needs to adjust its terms, they will need to do so by seeking a formal modification. Both parties can agree to modification terms and seek to have them formalized by the court, or a judge can order a modification in a contested proceeding. Until a formal modification of an order is entered by the court, any deviation from the existing order's terms could be considered a violation of it. Therefore, all parties must abide by the terms of the original until a modification is formally recognized by the judge assigned to the affected case.

Enforcing a Support Order in Monroe County, PA

If a party to a child or spousal support order violates its terms, the Pennsylvania courts can enforce that order by subjecting the offender to any of the following actions:

  • Adding interest to their overdue payments.
  • Requiring collateral or security in re: future payments.
  • Authorizing the seizure of their property to cover the overdue amount.
  • Authorizing the garnishment of no more than 50% of their wages.
  • Entering an additional judgment against the offender as the court sees fit.

Seek Guidance From a Reputable Monroe County, Pennsylvania Support Attorney Today

If you are navigating a family law matter in Monroe County, PA, know that the LLF Law Firm's dedicated Family Law team can help you safeguard your interests and pursue your goals as your case unfolds. Whether you're requesting support, pushing back on an unreasonable request for support filed by your spouse, trying to negotiate an amicable solution, seeking to modify or terminate support orders, or are otherwise in need of guidance, our client-focused team is available to assist you. Our approach to family law representation is focused and compassionate in nature. We will seek a favorable resolution to your legal challenges without wasting your time.

Don't spend another restless night wondering how to proceed effectively. Call our offices directly by calling 888.535.3686 or reach out online to start the process of building your case with the assistance of a team that will treat your situation with the care and respect that it deserves. We look forward to hearing from you.

Contact a skilled Family Law Team Today!

The LLF Law Firm has unparalleled experience practicing Family Law in Pennsylvania. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Our Family Law Team will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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