After filing, what is the next step in a Child Support or Spousal Support case in Montgomery County?
The Montgomery County Child and Spousal Support is a "three-tier" system. The first level is a Domestic Relations Support Conference before a Domestic Relations Support Conference Officer. Conferences are scheduled before the Officers (who are not usually attorneys) approximately four to six weeks after the date of filing.
Support Conferences, also known as Conciliation Conferences, are assigned to individual Officers on a daily basis. There are no assigned caseloads per Officer, although letter groups of the alphabet are assigned to Team Leaders for the purpose of supervising specific cases loads. At this level, the parties appear with their attorneys in the Domestic Relations Office. If an attorney for the Defendant has not yet entered an "appearance" with Montgomery County Family Court, it should be done at this time.
Where does the Support Conference take place in Norristown?
Child Support and Spousal Support Conferences take place at the Montgomery County Domestic Relations Office located at 425 Swede Street, Norristown, PA 19404. The Domestic Relations Office, a division of Montgomery County Family Court, is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:15 PM. The phone number to the Domestic Relations Office is 610-278-3646.
The Domestic Relations Office is located at:
What information is required at a Montgomery County Support Conference?
The information required to be exchanged and submitted to the Officer is set forth in Pa.R.C.P. Rule 1910.11(c) and Montgomery County Local Rule 1910.11(c). Documents required to be provided at the initial Child Support or Spousal Support Conference in Norristown, PA, if applicable, include:
- Income Statement on the form provided by the Montgomery County Domestic Relations Office for all cases;
- Expense Statement for cases where the combined monthly net income of the parties is in excess of $30,000 pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1910.11(c)(2). For Support Guideline cases, the Income and Expense Statement need show only income and extraordinary expenses pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1910.(c)(1) and Montgomery County (Local Rule) R.C.P. 1910.11(c)(1) and (c)(2);
- Most recent income tax returns, both Federal and State, with all attachments;
- Most recent corporate income tax return;
- Copies of all W2's, 1099's, and income statements for the full previous year prior to the Divorce Complaint or Complaint in Support;
- Six months of pay stubs and a pay stub showing year-to-date earnings, if available;
- Medical insurance documentation;
- Verification of child care, tuition, and summer camp expenses;
- Information relating to professional licenses; and
- Copies of support payments certified by the Custodian of Records are admissible evidence for both the facts asserted and to show whether the payments were made.
The parties should bring at least three copies of the above information to the Support Conference in Norristown.
Is the Support Conference in Norristown a formal proceeding?
The Support Conference is relatively informal, with the Support Conference Officer reviewing the documents and date submitted by parties, and entering the income information on the PACSES system. Counsel may ask relevant questions which pertain to the income and expenses of the parties and needs of the children and parties when given the opportunity by the Officer. The Officer will make a verbal recommendation, if possible, pertaining to all support issues at hand, for example, Child Support, Spousal Support, and/or Alimony Pendente Lite, also known as "APL."
What happens if the parties do not agree to Child Support or Spousal Support at the Montgomery County Support Conference?
The Support Conference Officer will offer a Recommendation and encourage the parties to reach an agreement. If the parties agree to accept the Recommendation as the Order of Court, an Agreed Order is prepared and signed by the parties and the support proceeding is complete. The parties may also agree to the temporary Recommendation, without prejudice, pending a hearing before the Support Master and entry of a subsequent Final Order. However, if neither a Final nor a Temporary Agreement can be reached, the Officer will recommend a Temporary Order in accordance with the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines, and as provided in the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure 1910.11
If the parties do not agree to the Temporary Recommendation, under Montgomery County Local Rules, the matter may be immediately submitted to a Montgomery County Family Court Judge for entry of a Temporary Order. The Court will review the case and enter a Temporary Order, based on the Recommendation of the Support Officer unless there would be a gross miscarriage of justice by accepting the Support Officer's Recommendation. It is recommended that a party's attorney only refuse to agree to a Temporary Order of Support under extreme circumstances. If a Temporary Order is entered, either by Agreement or by the determination of the Family Court Judge sitting in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, the matter is scheduled for the "second tier" support hearing before a Support Master. The scheduling of the Support Master Hearing will be scheduled before the parties and the parties' attorneys leave the Support Conference.
Can Entitlement to Support be raised at a Montgomery County Support Conference?
Where questions of Entitlement of Spousal Support are raised before a Support Conference Officer, such issues of Entitlement will be deferred to the Support Master. No Temporary Order will be entered for Spousal Support. In contrast, the awarding of Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) is made without consideration of the fault of the parties, and therefore, a Temporary Order will be entered at the Support Conference level without the agreement of the parties.
Can a Support Conference be continued in Montgomery County?
Continuances are generally granted for good cause, by agreement of the parties' attorneys pending settlement negotiations, or due to scheduling conflicts. All continuance requests for Support Conferences must be referred to the Client Coordinator or the Team Supervisor. If the request for a Continuance is not granted, one may be requested from the signing Judge.
Can I bring witnesses to a Support Conference in Montgomery County?
Witnesses, other than parties, are not to be present at the Support Conference. Domestic Relations can issue "earnings subpoenas" to known employers in advance of the Support Conference. Although no witnesses are permitted at the Conference, certain documentary evidence, especially documentation pertaining to a person's medical condition, may be submitted as discussed above, and should be submitted.
High Income Support Cases in Montgomery County
The case of Melzer vs. Witzberger, 505 Pa. 462, 480 A.2d 991 (1984), which set forth special procedures for High Income Support cases, was effectively overruled by the new Support Guidelines. Therefore, the Montgomery County Domestic Relations Section no longer has special proceedings for high income support cases; support cases in which the parties' combined monthly net incomes are in excess of $30,000 per month. It is nonetheless wise for an attorney for a high income support client to designate, in a prominent portion of the Support Complaint, that the matter involves high incomes to bring this to the immediate attention of the Montgomery County Domestic Relations Section. High income support parties must also submit an Expense Statement pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1910.27(c)(2)(B).
Montgomery County Attorney for Child Support or Spousal Support
Whether the party seeking Child Support, Spousal Support, or Alimony Pendente Lite, or the party who the complaint is against, you must protect your interests. A party who is in financial need of child support to provide for his or her children, or a spouse who is financial need to maintain his or her standard of living before a divorce is filed or while a divorce is pending, must understand the process that Montgomery County Family Court uses to address Support cases. An attorney experienced with Montgomery County child support, spousal support, APL 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.