Child Support

Am I eligible to receive child support?

If you are the primary custodian of a child under 18, you can receive support on that child’s behalf from the child’s parent or parents not in custody, regardless of marital status. Support includes a monthly monetary obligation, and it may also include a requirement that the noncustodial parent provides health care coverage for the child and pays a percentage of unreimbursed medical expenses. The parent paying support is the “obligor,” and the custodian receiving support is the “obligee.” “Emancipated minors” cannot obtain support.

How do I request child support?

Each county has a Domestic Relations section where requests to obtain or modify child support are filed. The Domestic Relations staff will assist you in making the request, and a fee is generally required to initiate support actions.

How is the amount of child support determined?

Using the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, the court will primarily look at two factors: the number of children, and the parties’ combined monthly income, after deductions. The rules provide a precise calculation of support owed with a chart and a formula, using those factors. The court can only deviate from that chart and formula under special circumstances, such as “unusual needs and… obligations” and “other support obligations.” The court does not just consider what the parties earn in determining income but also what they are capable of earning, based upon education, training and experience.

Will child support be decreased where custody is shared?

When the parent paying support has custody for between 40-50% of overnights, the court will decrease the amount of support owed based upon a formula in the Rules of Civil Procedure. If a parent paying support has less than 40% of overnights for custody, that parent will not be entitled to a reduction in support obligation under this “substantial shared custody” formula. If parents share joint 50/50 custody, the parent who earns more may still be responsible for paying child support under this formula.

How can I increase support for my children?

Requests to increase support are made in the same way as original requests for support, unless your county court requires a petition to modify support. Regardless, you must show that a “substantial change in circumstances” has occurred for an increase in support. This can include your loss of employment, the other parent’s new employment or increased earnings, or substantially increased expenses for the children.

When does support end?

Generally, child support is terminated when the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever occurs later. In highly unusual circumstances, and by request of a party and court order, support can continue beyond that. When your child turns 18 or graduates high school, you should look for and respond to documents from the Domestic Relations Section about possible termination of support.

Does it matter for child support if I receive public assistance?

Generally, those who receive public assistance are required to file for child support where it is legally available. If you receive any form of assistance, including cash assistance, food stamps or medical assistance, you should contact the Department of Human Services or your County Assistance Office to ask whether you need to file for child support.

What can I do if the other parent does not pay support as ordered?

If you are not receiving support as ordered, you should contact your county’s Domestic Relations Section, which will assign staff to enforce the support order. Based upon local county practice and procedure, that staff may meet with the parent obligated to pay in order to resolve the delinquency, but if it is not resolved, a contempt hearing will be requested before the Family Court Judge. A delinquent parent can be incarcerated for up to 6 months for failure to pay support, if it is shown that parent failed to. That parent must be released from jail, however, if the parent “purges” by paying an amount set by the court.

Can I agree to waive child support?

No. Like child custody, child support is not waivable and is always subject to modification, since it is for the child and not the adult. Other than the child reaching adulthood, a child support obligation can only be terminated where a parent’s rights are terminated in Orphans’ Court as part of adoption proceedings. Any writing, including in court orders, stating that child support is waived is generally not enforceable.

Can the parent paying support question what I do with the money?

No. It is presumed by the courts that the money you receive for child support directly or indirectly benefits the children, whether by paying for housing, food, clothing, school, extra-curricular or any other costs. The parent responsible for paying cannot monitor how the money is spent, though it is recommended that basic needs for shelter, food and clothing be covered in some form, as the failure to do so could impact the interests of the children and therefore, custody.

Do I have to provide increased child custody since I receive support?

No. Child custody and support are generally viewed separately by courts, so that a parent who pays child support cannot use that as a basis to receive increased custody, while a parent who fails to pay child support cannot be punished by receiving less custody. While custody will impact who receives support and how much is received, courts do not consider that in determining custody. For child support, you should not make decisions or take positions regarding the other parent based upon the amount of child custody.

How can legal aid help?

Legal aid can provide telephone or in-person advice for child support, including advice on the law as it applies to your case and guidance about evidence and procedures. Legal aid does not have resources to assist in court, except in rare circumstances where an extraordinary factual or legal issue requires our help. However, while Domestic Relations Sections do not provide legal advice or representation, they have staff designated to provide administrative and enforcement support to guide you through the process.

What is the Fayette County court process?

Child support forms can be obtained and filed at the Domestic Relations Section located at the Public Service Building, 22 East Main Street, Uniontown, PA. Upon filing, a support hearing officer will be assigned.
For local rules, go to www.co.fayette.pa.us.

What is the Greene County court process?

Child support forms can be obtained and filed at the Domestic Relations Section located at the Fort Jackson Building, 19 South Washington Street, Waynesburg, PA. Upon filing, a support hearing officer will be assigned. If no agreement is reached and a hearing is requested, a Judge will hold a hearing. Requests to modify an order issued within the last 6 months must be made by motion to court, showing a substantial change of circumstances.

For local rules, go to www.co.greene.pa.us.

What is the Somerset County court process?

Child support forms can be obtained and filed at the Domestic Relations Section located at 300 North Center Avenue, Suite 200, Somerset, PA.
For local rules, go to www.co.somerset.pa.us.

What is the Washington County court process?

Child support forms can be obtained and filed at the Domestic Relations Section located at the Family Court Center, 29 West Cherry Avenue, Washington, PA. Upon filing, a support conference officer will be assigned for a conference, after which a recommended order will be issued if no agreement is reached. Each party will be able to request a hearing with a Support Master after receiving that recommended order. If a party disagrees with the recommended order after the hearing, an argument can be requested before the assigned Judge. Requests to modify an order issued within the last 6 months must be made by motion to court, showing a substantial change of circumstances.
For local rules, go to www.washingtoncourts.us.