Child Support in Pennsylvania
You and your spouse may have agreed upon a child support arrangement that was incorporated into your judgment of divorce, or the court may have ordered payments as part of the divorce judgment. But it is axiomatic that life changes. No matter how carefully you’ve tried to plan out child support payments so that you and your ex wouldn’t ever have to revisit the issue, sometimes child support payments no longer cover the expenses you incur for your children. Thus, the only solution is to go back to court for a modified child support order.
At any time after a child support order is issued, either parent may return to the court to ask that child support payments be increased or lowered (or even terminated). Below are the steps a party must take to increase child support payments.
Demonstrate Changed Circumstances
As a general matter, a parent seeking to alter child support payments must prove that circumstances have substantially changed since the current child support order was put into effect. Substantially changed circumstances that warrant increasing child support payments include:
- Substantial increase in a parent’s income: courts usually consider an increase of 10 percent or more to be a substantial change — the idea is to ensure that the children have reasonably equal living conditions when they spend time at either parent’s home
- Substantial decrease in a parent’s income: again, typically defined as a decrease of 10 percent or more, when caused through no fault of the receiving parent, such as through the loss of a job; courts may not grant an increase of child support payments if it finds the receiving parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed
- Substantial increase in the child’s needs: includes medical expenses, educational expenses, extracurricular expenses, or increases in the cost of living
Again, any voluntary or unreasonable action by either parent to decrease the custodial parent’s financial resources or increase the purported financial needs of the child — such as the custodial parent quitting their job, or buying the child a vehicle without the input of the other parent — will typically not serve as a basis to increase child support payments.
Seek a Court Order
Even if you and your ex agree to a new child support payment amount, it is important to get a court order memorializing that amount since that will be the only official record of child support due. It is entirely possible that your relationship with your ex who pays child support may deteriorate over time — if they are only voluntarily paying additional child support, they can cease doing so and without a court order reflecting that additional amount you may be left with little or no recourse. Courts generally do not enforce verbal support orders.
Applying for a court order to increase child support payments may be as simple as filling out the appropriate form provided by the court and paying a small filing fee. If neither parent objects to the new amount and the court finds the new amount is in the best interest of the children, it will typically issue an order without needing to hold a hearing. However, if the paying parent objects to an increase of child support payments, the court will schedule a hearing on the request, requiring the parties to incur time and legal expenses to fight in court.
Obtaining Help with Increasing Child Support Payments
If the paying parent objects to an increase of child support payments, the court will require you to prove that circumstances have substantially changed since the entry of the existing child support order. Demonstrating changes in your or your spouse’s financial situation can be a complicated task, in addition to dealing with complex court procedures. If the court orders a hearing on your request for increased child support payments, your best chance at success is to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process and represent you in court.
Contact a Colmar Family Law Attorney for a Consultation About Child Support in Pennsylvania Today
If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you have already started the divorce process and are dealing with another matter such as child custody, child support, or division of assets, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. The Pennsylvania family law attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C. represent clients throughout the state, including Colmar, Doylestown, Norristown, and Lansdale. We understand how challenging this can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at 215-822-7575 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 2605 N. Broad St, Colmar, PA 18915, as well as an office located in Newtown, Bucks County, PA.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.