Who can file for child support in Montgomery County?
In Pennsylvania, the case of Larsen v. DiVeglia, 700 A.2d. 931 (PA. 1997), held that the right to child support could only be asserted by a party who possessed the legal right to act on behalf of the child. Section 4341 of Act 58, which became effective January 1, 1998, superseded Larsen v. DiVeglia, and expanded "standing" to include any person caring for the child (such as grandparents or applicable third parties), regardless of whether a Court Order had been issued granting that person custody of the child. Therefore, an action in child support may be initiated by a dependent spouse or custodian of the child. "Custodian" is defined as the person with whom the child resides.
Commencement of the Child Support or Spousal Support Action in Montgomery County: Preparing for Filing
An action for child support or alimony pendente lite, also known as "APL,' can be initiated in two ways.
The First Method - Including a Count for Support in the Divorce Complaint
In the first method, a support action may be initiated by the inclusion of a count for the same in the Divorce Complaint. If so, a time-stamped copy of the Divorce Complaint must be filed in the Montgomery County Domestic Relations Office, pursuant to Montgomery County R.C.P. 1920.13*(d). The Domestic Relations Office is located on the first floor of One Montgomery Plaza which is located directly across from the Courthouse.
The Domestic Relations Office is located at:
It should be noted that alimony pendente lite actions cannot proceed unless a divorce is pending with a count of alimony pendente lite. Spouses seeking support may proceed without a Divorce Complaint by filing a complaint for spousal support with the Domestic Relations Office. Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, one can only obtain alimony pendente lite or spousal support, but not both. Spousal support may be challenged on the basis on entitlement.
The Second Method - Filing a Complaint for Support
In the second method, a party may file a Complaint for Support at the Domestic Relations Office in order to initiate a support procedure. Parties wishing to file a Support Complaint may appear without an appointment from 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM, Monday through Friday, and complete the Application for Support Services. Interested parties may also call the self-help voice-activated system, (610-278-3646), for basic information on accessing the system. Mail-in packages are available upon request, with instructions for parties filing a local Complaint for Support, wherein both the obligor and obligee reside in Montgomery County, PA.
Under either method, the Complaint must be accompanied by the completed Intake / Information Data Sheet which is available through the Montgomery County Domestic Relations Office. This document is necessary for the processing of the Complaint and scheduling of a conference. Domestic Relations will utilize the in-parent locator service and if necessary, the Pennsylvania and Federal parent locator services if no address is provided for the obligor but other information allowing for such a search is provided. Finding the location of an absent parent may take significant time.
A party's attorney should also attach any documents they wish admitted as evidence to their Complaint. A party and his or her attorney should be mindful that the trier of fact will determine the weight given to such documentation provided in this manner. Documentary evidence, pertaining to a person's medical condition should be submitted, and if counsel wishes to take advantage of the hearsay exception pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S.A. § 4342(f), such documentation should be attached to the Complaint.
Complaints for Support should include a count for counsel fees, pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S.A. § 4351, if an obligee prevails in proceeding to either establish paternity or obtain a Support Order, the Court may assess against an obligor filing fees, reasonable attorney fees, necessary travel fees, and other reasonable costs and expenses incurred by the obligee and the obligee's witnesses. It should be noted that counsel fees may be taxed as costs and are to be paid directly to the attorney who can enforce the Order in their own name. However, the payment of support to the obligee shall hold priority over any fees, costs, and expenses owed.
Commencement of Action: Filing a Support Case in Montgomery County
As stated above, all support actions (regardless of whether the support action was originally filed as part of a Divorce Complaint) must be filed with the Montgomery County Domestic Relations Office. At this time there is no filing fee for Support Complaints initiated in the Domestic Relations Office. However, there may soon be a fee requirement for Complaints filed initially in the Domestic Relations Office, since there is a filing fee to include a support county in a Divorce Complaint. By filing a support action separately, a party has, in essence, bypassed the filing fee requirement. Therefore, it is always good practice to check with Domestic Relations before filing a new action to see if a fee has been instituted.
What is the PASCES number in a Montgomery County Support Case?
A docket number and PASCES number are assigned to every case upon filing. PASCES stands for the "Pennsylvania Automated Child Support Enforcement System." These docket number and the PASCES number follow the support action throughout the system. The PASCES number should be noted on any correspondence with Domestic Relations or payments made on the account. The PASCES system, which was activated in July 1998, requires additional significant numbers assigned to each individual case or parties therein, including a Member ID number, State ID numbers, and PIN numbers for the parties.
Pennsylvania Family Law requires proof that the obligor has been served with a notice of the support claim and hearing date. Without such proof, the Conference Officer, who presides over the support conference, must continue the matter to a new date. If proof of service is available, but the obligor does not appear for the conference, a Support Order may be entered against the obligor, if the party seeking support can offer concrete documentation as to the obligor's income. However, if no income documentation is available and there is proof of service, proceedings are delayed until a bench warrant is issued compelling the obligor to appear to address the bench warrant, at which time a preliminary "Conciliation Conference" will also be conducted.
In the interim, the hearing officer will proceed with the preliminary Conciliation Conference with the moving party, in order to gain the obligee's information for use when the obligor appears. The Montgomery County Sheriff's Department may also be asked to serve the Complaint on the obligor with an additional notice that the obligor must appear within 72 hours or the result will be the issuance of a bench warrant. In all cases, it is best to serve the other party quickly after filing, as they will begin to receive notices from Domestic Relations whether or not they have been served.
Montgomery County Child Support Attorney | Norristown Spousal Support Attorney
Whether the party seeking child support, spousal support, alimony pendente lite, or the party who the complaint is against, you must protect your interests. In addition, whether a party in financial need of child support to provide for his or her children, a spouse in financial need to maintain his or her standard of living through spousal support, or a spouse in financial need of APL after the divorce has been filed, all must understand the process that Montgomery County Family Court uses to decide not only whether support should be granted, but whether a support filing will be accepted. An attorney experienced with Montgomery County child support and spousal support practice and procedure will be a valuable resource as you prepare to file, and when you have your day in Court. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today to learn how he can help.