FREQUENT ISSUES IN CHILD SUPPORT

Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC. – Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers

Child support issues are a part of any Family law practice. There are common questions and concerns we see, and this newsletter will address some of the most common. If you have issues, questions or concerns about your child support, give us a call to discuss.

  1. WILL MY CHILD SUPPORT AUTOMATICALLY END WHEN MY CHILD TURNS 18?  No. As your child approaches the age of 18, you should receive a letter from the child support office asking you if you and the other parent agree to end the support order.  If both parents agree, the obligation to continue to pay will end. If one parent does not agree or does not reply, then the order will continue. It is up to the person paying support to file a Petition to Terminate Support. If not done, the obligation will continue to run.
  2. YOU HAVE CHANGED JOBS. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?   On the bottom of every support order is an obligation for a party to notify the court of any material change in income. If a party does not do so, and goes to support court sometime later, the court can backdate the support order to the date a party changed jobs. That can be very expensive. It is best to notify the court when you have a material change in income to avoid this problem.
  3. YOU HAVE LOST YOUR JOB. WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?   If you have lost your job and have no income, you should immediately file a Petition to Modify your support order. Otherwise, the support obligation will continue to accumulate as though you still have your prior job. This, too, can be expensive for you. You can accumulate a large amount of money owed to the other party, called an arrearage. Arrearage accumulation can lead to a Contempt Petition being filed against you. This is not something you want to have happen to you.
  4. WHAT IF YOU ARE NOT POSITIVE A CHILD IS YOUR CHILD?   If you are in a circumstance where a person files for child support against you and you are not sure the child is yours, at your first court appearance, you should ask that the court order paternity testing. It is the best practice to do this either at the very beginning of your support case in court, or as soon as possible after your case begins. If you don’t request Paternity testing very early in your case, the court can hold that you are the parent for support purposes and refuse to order a paternity test. Do not sign any document acknowledging paternity until the court has you,  the other parent and your child tested for paternity. This is very important.
  5. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU RECEIVE A CONTEMPT PETITION FROM THE COURT?  Contempt is the most serious sanction that can be filed against you in support court. You will attend court before a Judge, and likely the Judge’s clerk will speak with you ahead of time, that day, to see if you can make a payment that day. It is suggested that you bring money with you to court that day to make a payment. How much money you should bring will depend on the amount of money you are behind in support. It is best to speak with a good family lawyer before you go, or hire a family lawyer to attend with you. The punishment that can occur for violation includes a fine, loss of driving privileges, suspension of your passport, and ultimately incarceration in jail. Contempt is very serious and should not be taken lightly.  Also, do not fail to attend court. A bench warrant will be issued for your arrest and you will be in bigger difficulty by not attending than by attending when you are scheduled to appear in court. 
  6. DO YOU NEED A LAWYER FOR SUPPORT COURT?  Whether you need to hire a lawyer is a personal decision. The most reasonable answer is it is always better to be represented by an attorney than to not be represented. Support is a serious matter, and should be treated that way.

TERM OF THE MONTH:   Arrearage:   The amount of money a support payor owes to the other party,  which has not been paid for the prior months of a support obligation.

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