Whether a Plaintiff or a Defendant in a Bucks County child or spousal support case, parties often have questions as to what to expect at the Support Conference. Certain considerations will depend on the nature of the support case, but there is a general process that Bucks County Family Court follows.
What Kind of Documentation Do I Need to Bring to a Support Conference in Bucks County?
Parties appear for a Support Conference and are required to provide an income and expense sheet, six months of pay stubs, and the last filed income tax return. If an additional expenses are being presented, proof is required, such as: daycare expenses, medical insurance premiums, private school tuition, and mortgage costs.
Will an Order Be Issued at a Support Conference in Bucks County?
If both parties attend the Support Conference, the conference will either resolve in an agreed Order or the matter will be listed for Court before a Judge. The Support Conference will be presided over be a "hearing officer." If the matter needs to be scheduled for Court by the hearing office, Court hearings are generally listed in approximately two weeks from the date of the Support Conference.
When a new matter is listed for a hearing, a temporary Order will be issued in most child support cases. Temporary Orders may be issued in Spousal Support or Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) cases. (Spousal Support is sought when the parties are separated and potentially before a divorce is pending, and APL is alimony that is sought while the divorce is pending.) Temporary Orders are not issued when the support petition is for a modification, suspension, or termination.
Can a Support Conference in Bucks County Be Continued?
Continuances of a Support Conference must be made prior to the conference, must be in writing, and must note the position of the opposing party; the other side to the request. If an objection is made to the request from the opposing side, the conference will not be continued. All continued Support Conferences are placed on the hearing officer's "relist" day.
What Takes Place at a "Relist" Day in Doylestown?
Relist days are held once a month by each hearing officer. They are scheduled by the hearing officer, and the hearing officer can schedule up to ten cases on one day at different time slots. One relist days, the support case may not be taken at the exact time scheduled as there may be more than once support case schedule at any given time.
What Happens if the Parties Agree to Support After a Support Case is Filed?
Parties may submit a "stipulation," which is an agreement between the parties (and the parties' attorneys if represented by counsel), through the Bucks County Prothonotary prior to the hearing, but a complaint must be filed in new matters for the stipulation to become an Order. It must also state that it is to be payable through Bucks County Domestic Relations Section if the Order is to be set up in the PASCES system, the . Pennsylvania Automated Child Support Enforcement System in Harrisburg, PA. A copy must be sent to the attention of the Domestic Relations Section in order for the support order to be modified.
Depending on the circumstances of the support case in Bucks County, it may be important to note that Domestic Relations does not automatically receive Orders made on the records in other divorce proceedings which include modification of support.
What Happens if the Defendant Does Not Appear at a "New Matter" Support Conference in Bucks County?
For Support Conferences involving "New Matters," also known as an initial support filing, if the hearing officer has subpoenaed income information from the defendant's employer and there is good service, the matter will be listed before the Court for a "default" Order to be entered.
If the hearing officer does not have subpoenaed income information, but has good service on the defendant (meaning the defendant was officially notified of the Support Conference) and the defendant is located in Bucks County, a Bench Warrant will be issued for the defendant's arrest.
If the hearing officer does not have subpoenaed income information, but has good service on the defendant and the defendant is located outside of Bucks County, a motion for UIFSA/IFSA will be processed. UIFSA/IFSA stands for the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act/Interstate Family Support Act. UIFSA/IFSA is invoked whenever more than one state is involved in establishing, enforcing, or modifying a child support or spousal support Order. The Act determines the jurisdiction and power of the courts in the different states involved in the support case. The Act also determines which state's law will apply in support proceedings under the Act.
What Happens if the Defendant Does Not Appear at a "Modification" Support Conference?
For Support Conferences involving Modifications of an existing support Order, if the hearing officer has subpoenaed income information from the defendant's employer and there is good service, the modification petition will be listed before the Court for a default Order to be entered.
If the hearing officer has no subpoenaed income information, but there is good service, a Bench Warrant will be issued for the Defendant's arrest regardless of where the Defendant is located.
What is Considered "Official Service" for a Support Petition in Bucks County?
Complaints for Child Support and/or Spousal Support in Bucks County are served by regular mail and certified mail for the Defendant. In Modification cases, service upon the Defendant is made only by regular mail. In Alimony Pendente Lite cases, service is not made on the Defendant, but rather, the Plaintiff's attorney must serve the Defendant with the Notice supplied to them by Bucks County Family Court.
How are Alimony Modification Petitions Handled in Bucks County?
If a Petition to Modify includes a Modification of Alimony, the Support Conference will be listed with a support hearing officer and "Support Master." Both the hearing officer and Support Master will hear the matter and make a recommendation to the Court if the Alimony Modification case is listed for a hearing.
Can a Defendant Appear by Phone at a Support Conference in Bucks County?
If the Defendant in a support case in Bucks County is more than 100 miles away from Doylestown, the Defendant may request a phone conference on a new support complaint. A Defendant's request to "appear" by phone must be made prior to the Support Conference, and the Defendant must submit all of their required income information and a phone number where they can be reached at the time of the conference. This request must be submitted prior to the Support Conference and the decision will be left to the discretion of each individual hearing officer as to whether the request for a phone conference will be approved.
Can a Party Appear by Phone at a Modification Support Conference in Bucks County?
If a party, whether a Plaintiff or Defendant, is out of state on a Support Modification mater, a request can be made for a phone conference. This request, however, must be made prior to the Support Conference, and the requesting party must submit all of their required income information and a phone number where they can be reached at the time of the Support Conference. This request must be submitted prior to the Support Conference and it will be left to the discretion of each individual hearing officer as to whether the request for a phone conference will be approved.
What Happens if the Plaintiff in a Support Case is Receiving Cash Assistance?
If a Plaintiff is receiving cash assistance from Welfare, the parties cannot propose a support agreement which deviates from the support guidelines. No argument can be made in cash assistance cases that the Plaintiff has an earning potential. The Plaintiff cannot, in such a case, agree to withdraw their petition or terminate their case without proof that they are no longer receiving cash assistance.
Does a Defendant Have to Pay Support on the Day of Their Support Conference?
Defendants are encouraged to make payments on the day of the Support Conference via cash or debit card.
Bucks County Child Support Attorney | Doylestown 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. A major part of protecting your interests is understanding what takes place at a support conference in Bucks County Family Court. An attorney experienced with Bucks 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.