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Support is the payment of money for the care, maintenance and living expenses of a child or a spouse. There is no requirement, nor any ability, for this Court to require an accounting from the person receiving the support to show where or how the support money is spent.
Under Pennsylvania law, parents are responsible for the financial support of their children until emancipation. Emancipation occurs when the child turns 18 years of age and graduates high school, whichever occurs last. There are certain exceptions to this rule which may apply when the child has turned 18 and has withdrawn or dropped out of high school or when a child has special needs. In certain cases, parents may be responsible for the support of their children beyond the age of 18 or emancipation.
Under Pennsylvania law, one spouse may be responsible for the support of the other spouse. Generally, when there is a large difference in the incomes between the husband and wife and they are separated from each other, spousal support may be ordered by the Court. Spousal support is also commonly referred to alimony pendente lite (A.P.L.). There are certain legal differences between spousal support and A.P.L. which may be discussed with an attorney.The obligation to pay spousal support ends when a divorce decree is entered by the Court. If a party is required to pay support to a spouse after the divorce, that is known as alimony and may or may not be handled through this office.
Save time by completing the online Request for Support Services. We can access the answers provided and complete the process in our offices. File for support either by appearing, in person or through an attorney, in the Domestic Relations Section offices during normal office hours. Meet with an Intake Scheduling Specialist between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to file a Complaint or Petition.
If the non-custodial parent lives in Pennsylvania, allow approximately 45 minutes for filing a Complaint for support in the office. If the noncustodial parent lives outside Pennsylvania, contact us to make an appointment to file a Complaint for support as it may take longer.To file a petition for modification of an existing order in the Domestic Relations office, allow approximately 30 minutes to complete the petition.
When filing a New Complaint for support, the following information must be provided to the Domestic Relations Section:
The Protection From Abuse (PFA) order will not prevent both parties from attending scheduled court hearings at the same time. Please notify our staff if a Protection from Abuse order exists or if there are concerns about safety related to filing for support. We will work to address the safety concerns. In all conference or hearings where we are aware a PFA order is in place, a third party will sit in to assure the proceeding is calm and safe. Harassing or threatening behavior will not be tolerated.
In Pennsylvania, the amount of support that an individual is required to pay is governed by the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure as set forth by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. From this net income amount as calculated by the Court, a mathematical formula is applied which takes into account both the parents' incomes and the amounts specified by the Supreme Court as the cost associated with providing support for a child. The determination of support has nothing to do with whether the Conference Officer, Hearing Officer, or Judge likes or dislikes someone, it is a purely mathematical process. There is a grid established based on the parents incomes, number of children and parenting time.
Generally, support is calculated by taking your gross (pre-tax) income and subtracting only the following items:
In addition to the amount of monthly support, an individual may also be required to contribute a share of any child care, medical, educational or other expenses incurred by the custodial parent for the child in addition to the support amount.
Paternity can be established in the following ways:
Find out more about establishing paternity.
All orders to appear for a support conference or hearing specify: the date, time and location at which parties must appear. Parties will receive this notice, along with a copy of the Complaint for Support which has been filed by regular and/or certified mail.Enclosed with our order to appear there is Income and Expense Statement which must be completed prior to the support conference or hearing.
Enclosed with the order to appear are a set of interrogatories. These are written questions which must be answered and returned to the Court by the date specified. Use the postpaid envelope enclosed. Both the interrogatories and the income/expense statement may be returned at the same time and both must be signed. Also return any documentation required or requested by the interrogatories.
Domestic Relations SectionFamily Court CenterSecond Floor (entrance level)29 W Cherry AvenueWashington, PA 15301
The custodial parent (the person who receives support payments) not residing in Washington County, is not required to appear for support or contempt hearings. Their interests will be represented by the Title IV-D Attorney. However, they are expected to cooperate fully with the court. The IV-D Attorney will make sure that the procedural requirements of the hearing are met and that the case is not dismissed for a custodial parent that does not appear. The same procedural representation is not provided to a non-custodial parent.
The Title IV-D attorney provides procedural representation only. The IV-D Attorney is not "your attorney" and the custodial parent is not their "client." Custodial parents are urged to appear or be present for support or contempt hearings in person or by telephone, if possible. This is particularly true if there are any special circumstances that the Court should know about concerning the custodial parent or the child(ren). Only custodial parents can answer allegations made by the noncustodial parent at the hearing and present direct testimony for the Court to consider.
The telephone conference request form must be completed and mailed/faxed to the DRS no later than 3 days before the hearing date along with any documentation that is requested. This form is enclosed with the hearing notices.
The noncustodial parent in the case (the person who pays support), must appear for support and contempt hearings. If they are unable to physically appear, they are responsible for requesting a telephone conference. The noncustodial parent may offer testimony by telephone only after completing and returning the telephone conference request form. The telephone conference request form must be completed and mailed/faxed to the DRS no later than 3 days before the hearing date along with any documentation that is requested. This form is enclosed with the hearing notices.
Failing to appear for a support hearing will result in:
Rules for a telephone hearing:
How to request participation by telephone: When the scheduling notice is received a party may contact the Domestic Relations Section to be sent a Telephone Conference Request Form (PDF).
The form must be completed and returned by the time specified on that form, but not less than three days prior to the hearing.
If a party fails to appear for a conference or hearing, the court may proceed without their participation or dismiss the matter. If the court proceeds a recommended order of support may be entered against them, even if they filed the petition.
If a noncustodial parent has been served either in person or by certified mail for an initial support conference and fails to appear for a conference or hearing, a bench warrant may be issued for their arrest based on the failure to appear. Upon arrest, the noncustodial parent will be lodged in the Washington County Correctional Facility until such time as their case may be heard by the Judge.If a noncustodial parent fails to appear for a contempt conference or hearing, a bench warrant will be issued for their arrest based on the failure to appear. Upon arrest, the noncustodial parent will be lodged in the Washington County Correctional Facility until such time as their case may be heard by the Judge.
If the child or children were not born during a time when the parents were married or if an Acknowledgement of Paternity has not been signed, paternity must be established. If paternity is not an issue, the support conference will proceed as follows:
The first step in a determination of support is for the support conference to be conducted. This conference is conducted by the Conference Officer who is a court official. The Conference Officer will collect various information from both parties, including demographic, employment, and income information and will calculate the net incomes of the parties. From these net incomes, the Conference Officer will calculate the guideline amount of support which is presumed to be correct in the case.
At this point the parties can either come to an agreement on the amount of support or not. If the parties agree to an amount of support, the Conference Officer will prepare an Agreement and Order of Support for the parties to sign. After this agreement is signed, it is sent to the Judge for signature and copies mailed to the parties thereafter.
If the parties do not reach an agreement, the Conference Officer will enter an interim order of support directing the defendant to pay the guideline amount of support. After the entry of that order the parties will be scheduled for a hearing de novo. If both parties request cancellation in writing or fail to appear at the hearing the interim order will become a final order. If a de novo hearing is held, the parties will appear before the Hearing Officer.
The Hearing Officer is an attorney, appointed by the Court, to hear testimony in support cases and make a written recommendation to the Court as to the amount of support which should be paid. The Hearing Officer will hear testimony and receive evidence from the parties and any other witnesses. Testimony in the hearing will be given under oath and is on the record. This is the only opportunity the parties will have to present evidence, so they should be prepared for this hearing on the date scheduled for the de novo hearing.
After the Hearing Officer hears all testimony, he or she will prepare a written report and findings, which shall be mailed to the parties and their attorneys. If either party disagrees for any reason with the Recommendation of the Hearing Officer, he or she must file Exceptions within twenty days from the date written on the report.
If Exceptions are filed by either party, a temporary order of support at the amount recommended by the Hearing Officer will be entered until the Court hears oral argument on the exceptions. Parties and their attorneys will receive an order directing when this argument will be heard. The filing party is required to order the transcript of testimony from the hearing for the Court to consider the exceptions.
Parties must also file a brief in support of the exceptions. The date by which a party must file this brief will be set forth in the order scheduling the date for oral argument. A brief is a written statement of the legal reasons why a party believes the Hearing Officer made a mistake in their recommendation.Information on how to prepare a brief may be obtained from the local law library or bar association.
To order a transcript from a support hearing, contact the Domestic Relations Services (DRS) office. A deposit of $50 is required when ordering a transcript. Once the transcript is prepared, parties will be notified that it is ready. If additional money is owed for the transcript, the requestor will be required to pay that amount before the transcript will be filed with the Court and copies for the parties are released.
Parties must appear for the oral argument on the Exceptions. If a party fails to appear, their exceptions will be dismissed and the recommended order of support entered as a final order of support. If neither party files exceptions to the recommendation of the Hearing Officer, then a final order of support will be entered after the twenty days has passed.
If a custodial parent receives cash assistance from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, they are required by Pennsylvania law to cooperate by filing a support action in the Domestic Relations Section and to appear for all support hearings, including those to establish paternity of their children.For all public assistance cases, a custodial parent must also:
Having a support case open and active in the Domestic Relations Section (either for active support, arrearages only, or birthing expenses), requires the following obligations on behalf of both parties:
Both the custodial parent and noncustodial parent in a support action are permitted to request that the support order amount be changed whenever there is a change in circumstances of either party. However, six months must have passed since the date of the last support order, or the moving party must ask for the permission of the judge before proceeding. See Local Rule L 1910.19.An order of support is changed or modified by filing a petition for modification. Parties can do this online at Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, by coming to the Domestic Relations Section in person or requesting a petition be sent by mail. Mail requests must be signed and notarized.
The Domestic Relations Section does not handle divorce and does not know when a divorce is granted and does not automatically adjust support orders to remove spousal support.
If a noncustodial parent is paying both child and spousal support and the order is unallocated, they must file a petition for modification to remove the spousal support. They should bring a copy of the divorce decree and marriage settlement agreement or stipulation to the support conference.If a spouse is paying spousal support/APL only, Local rules of court L-1910.17-3 and 1910.17-4 govern. In most instances, necessary changes can be done without a modification conference.
Copies of the divorce decree and marriage settlement agreement/stipulation must be provided to the Domestic Relations office. The documents must indicate a date that the support should stop, deal with any required medical coverages /costs and indicate how any arrears accrued should be handled.
Prior to a child turning 18 years old the Domestic Relations Section will send an emancipation inquiry request form to the custodial parent and a copy to the noncustodial parent. If the form is not received, contact the Domestic Relations Section. Schools will not release information to the Domestic Relations office.
PACSES stands for the Pennsylvania Automated Child Support Enforcement System. It is the statewide child support computer system that integrates all aspects of support establishment and enforcement.
All support payments are required to be made by wage attachment with employers.If a noncustodial parent is self-employed (1099), changes jobs, a wage attachment has not yet issued, or any time support is not being automatically deducted from some source of income, the noncustodial parent is required to make support payments directly to SCDU at the following address:Pennsylvania SCDUP.O. Box 69110Harrisburg, PA 17106-9110
Payments must include the noncustodial parent's PACSES member identification number, name and/or social security number to be processed. All payments must be by check or money order. Do not send cash by mail.
Further instructions may be found at the Pennsylvania Child Support website. Payments can also be made through the Washington Court website or call into the Court call center at 844-400-6735. Service charges apply.
Noncustodial parents who are unable to pay monthly support amounts, should immediately contact the Domestic Relations Section and speak with their Enforcement Officer. Failure to notify the Domestic Relations Section Enforcement Officer will result in enforcement actions up to and including incarceration for contempt.
Failure to pay support as ordered by the Court, will result in any and all of the following enforcement activities by the Washington County Domestic Relations Section: If a payment is missed on a case, a Notice of Non-Compliance letter may be sent; or an Enforcement Conference will be scheduled with the Enforcement Officer. If the defendant fails to appear for this conference or fails to reach or abide by any agreement entered into at the conference, then contempt proceedings will be initiated against them.
When a contempt petition is filed, the noncustodial parent is ordered to appear before a Conference Officer or Hearing Officer. If the noncustodial parent is ordered to appear for contempt, prompt arrival is expected. Failure to appear will result in a bench warrant issued for their arrest. If a bench warrant is issued and the noncustodial parent is arrested, they will be scheduled for hearing in front of the Judge via video.
The Judge may order the noncustodial parent to pay money and/or taken certain actions in order to be released from jail. This is called setting a purge condition; failure to meet these conditions may result in continued confinement in the county correctional facility up to six months for each charge of civil contempt. Once the purge conditions are met, the judge will sign a release order provided that there is no other reason for confinement.
If a noncustodial parent is jailed, they may be granted work release if they have proof of employment and work hours. This is subject to verification by the county jail authorities.
At the same time any and all of the following may occur:
If a noncustodial parent receives notice that their driver's license (or any other license) is going to be suspended for failing to make timely support payments, they should contact the assigned Enforcement Officer at once.Please remember, if a license is suspended by the Department of Transportation, the license holder must follow all steps for restoration, including the payment of the $70 restoration fee. Failing to pay this restoration fee to the Department of Transportation, will result in the license not being restored.
SCDU is the Pennsylvania Statewide Central Disbursement Unit for child support payments. It is located in Harrisburg and is responsible for processing all support payments for all 67 counties within the Commonwealth. SCDU processes all payments within twenty-four hours of their receipt, as required by federal regulations.Generally, mail time is three business days between Washington County and Harrisburg, and please should keep this in mind when mailing individual payments to SCDU.
The Washington County Domestic Relations Section cannot accept support payments. Cash or credit payments only for contempt purge conditions are still collected by the Domestic Relations Section.Any payments sent to SCDU must include the noncustodial parent's name, PACSES Member identification number and/or Social Security Number to be processed correctly. Failing to properly identify the payment, will result in delay in processing or return of the payment. In either case, if the noncustodial parent payment misses its due date because they failed to include proper identification on the payment, they may be subject to contempt proceedings for failing to make payments in a timely manner.
If a noncustodial parent is required to make a payment directly to SCDU either because they have changed jobs or there is an order of court permitting them to make payments without a wage attachment, send payments, made payable to "Pennsylvania SCDU" to the following address:Pennsylvania SCDUP.O. Box 69110Harrisburg, PA 17106-9110
All information concerning payments is maintained by SCDU alone. The local office cannot check on the receipt of payments and information concerning payments is only available to the local office on the day after the payment is processed.To contact SCDU concerning payments, call toll free, at 1-877-727-7238 or visit the SCDU website.
Under the Pennsylvania Rules of Court, the custodial parent is responsible to make full payment for the first $250 per person per year of unreimbursed medical expenses. Amounts over that $250 per person per year limit are subject to allocation and contribution by the noncustodial parent as prescribed by the order of support.
The term "unreimbursed medical expenses" includes medical services and supplies; surgical, dental and optical services, and orthodontia. Unless specifically included by the order of support cosmetic, chiropractic, psychiatric or psychological services are not included in this allocation.If expenses of this type are not already enumerated in the existing support order, the custodial parent must file a petition for modification asking that these expenses be included in the order of support in order to seek reimbursement.
When the current order of support requires the noncustodial parent to make payment or contribution toward unreimbursed medical expenses not covered by health insurance, the custodial parent must first send a copy of every medical bill or invoice to the noncustodial parent, via certified mail, return receipt requested, with a listing of each bill and their share of payment. Upon receipt, the noncustodial parent must make payment within thirty days.
Please contact the Domestic Relations Services for medical expense reimbursement form and instructions.
PACSES stands for Pennsylvania Automated Child Support Enforcement System. IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response.
A computer selects your name randomly from a master list which contains names of Washington County registered voters, PA licensed drivers, state taxpayers and welfare recipients.
A new master list is drawn annually. If your name is selected, you are eligible to serve.
If, for Washington County, you served one day within a one year period of your summons or served at least three days in a three year period, you will be excused if requested. Simply check the appropriate box on the questionnaire or send a separate written request. You must list your previous dates of service for verification.
Anyone 18 or older may be selected.
Only Washington County residents are eligible to serve. If you are not a permanent resident, you must notify us in writing listing your previous and current permanent address, if applicable. Or simply fill out and return the juror information/qualification form which includes a residency question.
Full-time students are usually excused if requested. Either check the appropriate box on the questionnaire or send a separate written request.
Just taking medication may not be a reason for excusal. Each case is reviewed on an individual basis. Excusal requests for medical reasons must include a current detailed doctor's excuse which is then reviewed. Sending in a doctor's excuse is not an automatic excusal as many illnesses do not prevent you from serving.
Those on active duty with the U.S. or PA military will be excused if requested. Either check the appropriate box on the questionnaire or send a separate written request.
An employer may not deprive an employee of his/her employment, or threaten or otherwise coerce a person because you received a summons to serve. Any employer who violates this law is guilty of a summary offense. If they penalize an employee for serving, the employee, within six months, may bring a civil action against the employer to recover lost wages and benefits. The employee also is allowed a reasonable attorney's fee fixed by the Court.
Check with your employer to make sure they do not pay you while serving. Many unions provide for jury duty pay in their union contract. Otherwise, financial hardship requests for excusal are reviewed on an individual basis.
It is your responsibility to check on your juror status. Call 855-681-5879 for an update. Your request for excusal may have been denied, and therefore, you will need to either report or phone-in as instructed on your summons. Another possibility is your request or our reply may have been lost in the mail.
You will receive $9 per day for the first three days you report and $25 per day for any days thereafter. In addition, for those who live outside the Washington city limit, jurors are compensated for mileage at the rate of 17 cents per mile. You should receive payment by check within 3 to 4 weeks after your service is complete.
Chances are your name was selected from the voters' registration list. The Election Office does not remove names unless you notify them, in writing, that you are no longer a resident. If you send a signed statement that you are no longer a resident and request to have your name removed from the voters' registration list, we will excuse you from jury duty and forward your request to the Election Office. Please include both your old and new address.
On the back of the Jury Summons, there is a section regarding Disability. Please call the ADA Coordinator at 724-228-6797 to discuss any accommodation necessitated by your disability.
A computer selects your name randomly from a master list which contains names of Washington County registered voters, Pennsylvania licensed drivers, state taxpayers and welfare recipients.
A new master list is drawn annually. If your name is selected, you are eligible to serve. View information about the master list.
Only Washington County residents are eligible to serve. If you are not a permanent resident, you must notify us in writing listing your previous and current permanent address, if applicable. Simply fill out and return the juror information/qualification form which includes a residency question.
Just taking medication may not be a reason for excusal. Each case is reviewed on an individual basis. Excusal requests for medical reasons must include a current detailed doctor's excuse which is then reviewed. Sending in a doctor's excuse is not an automatic excusal as many illnesses do not prevent you from serving.
Those on active duty with the U.S. or Pennsylvania military will be excused if requested. Either check the appropriate box on the questionnaire or send a separate written request.
It is your responsibility to check on your juror status. Call 1-855-681-5879 for an update. Your request for excusal may have been denied, and therefore, you will need to either report or phone-in as instructed on your summons. Another possibility is your request or our reply may have been lost in the mail.
The moving party must request that the Magisterial District Judge recuse (excuse) himself/herself, and that the case be sent to another Magisterial District Judge. If the Magisterial District Judge agrees to recuse, then either:
If the Magisterial District Judge refuses to recuse, then the moving party must prepare a Motion (a written outline stating the reason for the change of venue) and Order to be presented to President Judge Katherine B. Emery at her Motions Court. Motions are heard every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, at 9:15 a.m. The moving party must give the opposing party three days' notice and a copy of the Motion and Order to be presented prior to appearing at Motions Court.
If the judge grants the change of venue, then the original signed Motion and Order should be filed in the Prothonotary's Office (civil case) or the Clerk of Court's Office (criminal case), with enough copies to be distributed to the following:
If the judge denies the change of venue, your case will be returned to the original Magisterial District Judge's office for disposition.
The Court Administrator's Office receives complaints against Magisterial District Judges, in written form. Please include your name, address, and telephone number in the letter, and forward same to:Patrick R. Grimm, Esq.District Court Administrator1 S Main StreetSuite 2004Washington, Pa 15301
Please note that the Court Administrator cannot change the decision of the Magisterial District Judge, and that a letter of complaint to the Court Administrator does not stop the appeal process of your case.In addition, you may submit your complaint to the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania. For more information on that process, please visit Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania.
The employees of the Magisterial District Court are not attorneys, and cannot give legal advice. Legal questions should be directed to your attorney. Review resources for legal advice.
The Private Criminal Complaint form can be obtained at the Magisterial District Court in the area where the crime was committed.Unless the crime is a summary offense, the Magisterial District Court will forward the complaint to the District Attorney's Office for review and approval. When the District Attorney's Office returns an approved complaint to the Magisterial District Court, a hearing will be scheduled and notice mailed.If the District Attorney's Office does not approve the complaint, you can petition the Court of Common Pleas for a review of the decision (Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure 506(2)).
Constables are enlisted by the Magisterial District Judge to serve process in their office – they are not employees of the Magisterial District Judge, nor are they employees of the Court. Constables are elected officials, and their deputies are employed by them.Constables are certified by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. A listing of constables can also be found in the Clerk of Court's Office, located on the first floor of the Washington County Courthouse.
Please send both married parties names on marriage application, year of marriage, $10 fee and a self-addressed stamped envelope to the Register of Wills or stop in the Register of Wills office.
Yes, please make sure you have a valid form of photo identification. You do not need photo identification for a certified copy of a marriage license.
You must get your license in the State or country where the marriage will take place. Travel agents might be able to provide you more information based on your travel. We recommend you request translated certified copies before you leave the location.
No. Your marriage will never be registered in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or by an County of the Commonwealth. You should be certain to get a certified copy of your marriage license from the state or country where it took place. This will be necessary for Social Security purposes and perhaps your employer.
No. In Pennsylvania, all records of marriage licenses are maintained in the county where you applied for the license. This is true even if you applied in Washington County, but were married in another county of the Commonwealth.
The laws of Pennsylvania state that you can apply in any county of the Commonwealth and use the license in any other county of the Commonwealth.
No. but read the policy concerning officiants of marriages in the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a provision in the Marriage Act that recognizes a marriage performed without officiating clergy. This is referred to as a self-uniting license. Two witnesses are required. You must inform the clerk at the Register of Wills office that you want a self-uniting license at the time you apply.
This question should be referred to an attorney. Common Law ended 01/01/2005.
Age 18. Until then the person is considered a minor and needs parental permission to marry. If the person is between 14 and 16, Court permission is also required to apply for a marriage license.
The 1996 Federal Welfare Reform Act and the Commonwealth of PA Act 98-127 require the Social Security Number of an individual who has one on any application for a marriage license.
Law does not permit us to take the application.
Provision is made for this in the law. The application is taken and the license is issued.
The social security number is available only to this office. It does not appear on the application, or any public documents in this office.
No, a small amount of alcohol will send an alert that you have consumed alcohol.
Yes, you will need to have an operational phone line.
Yes, you must provide a letter from your employer with a work schedule and the pretrial officer will give you a window to work. Physician’s appointments will need documentation to attend unless it is an emergency.
Drug testing may be a condition of your bail; a valid prescription is also required for any prescription medication you may be taking.
You may have a drug and alcohol assessment completed before your hearing and treatment may be recommended which you will be required to attend.
No, you are on pretrial supervision and are presumed innocent.
Contact the Washington County Booking Center to schedule your CRN Evaluation at 724-229-5931. Your pretrial officer will be able to assist you in this process.
Pretrial supervision is $40 a month payable at the Clerk of Courts.
You can be reincarcerated and forfeit any monetary bail.
No, the custodian is not required to review or redact any filed document for compliance with this section. The filer, a party's attorney, or the party itself if pro se, is responsible to comply with the Policy.
Failure to comply with the requirements may cause the court, upon motion or its own initiative, to order the filed document sealed, redacted, amended, or any combination thereof.
A court may impose sanctions, including costs necessary to prepare a compliant document for filing in accordance with the applicable authority.
The confidential document form should be printed on yellow paper.
The confidential document form should be attached at the beginning of the confidential document (the top sheet). If a confidential document is intended to be an attachment to a filing, the confidential document should be filed separately. At the time of filing, the custodian may require that you detach a confidential document and file it separately under the confidential document form. One form is used for multiple documents.
Yes, the certificate of compliance must be attached to every filing, regardless of whether the filing contains confidential information or is a confidential document.
The public can access any filing that is not designated by the filer as containing confidential information or as a confidential document as defined by the Policy.
The Policy does not apply to any filing that requires confidential information or a confidential document that is required by applicable authority, such as statute, regulation, or rule of court. This includes filings made in the Domestic Relations Section or Register of Wills.
Documents or information that is required to be included or filed by statute, rule, or regulation, does not have to be treated as confidential under the Policy.
If you are in doubt concerning the confidentiality of certain information or a document, then you should treat it as confidential. Court staff cannot provide legal advice.
The Register of Wills office is located in the Washington County Courthouse, 1 S. Main Street, Suite 1002, Washington, PA 15301
The Register of Wills office is open from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday- Friday, excluding holidays.
Yes. You can call the office at 724-228-6775. If you are able to provide a name, we can do a limited search of our records for a file number. Once located, more detailed information can be requested. There could be a nominal fee to request these types of searches.
The Register of Wills records go back to the late 1700’s. Marriage license records go back to 1885. The Register of Wills records has birth and death records 1893 – 1906. We are in the middle of scanning our older documents and have documents in storage. Keep track of our scanning and searching progress over the next few years.
Most of the records at the Register of Wills office are available and open to the public. However, we do hold Orphans Court files, including adoptions, which are not open to the public.
The Register of Wills probates wills and appoints representatives for decedents who die with or without a will. The decedent MUST have been a resident of Washington County at the time of death. The Register of Wills also serves as an agent for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for filing and payment of Inheritance Taxes.
This is the process known as probate of the will. The procedure requires that the original will be brought to the office where it is examined for proper execution. Such things as signatures of the decedent and witnesses are checked. Due to the complexities of proper execution, it is strongly recommended that you contact an attorney for the preparation and probate of a will.
There are many reasons to register a will. Chief among these is the transfer of property, real estate or personal, from the decedent to beneficiaries.
Probate is the procedure by which a will is proved to be a valid or invalid according to the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Simply put, it means to die without a will.
If there are assets that must be transferred from the decedent to beneficiaries, you must come to the Register of Wills office. If you qualify, you may be appointed estate administrator.
A short certificate is a document that is certified proof of the appointment of the Estate’s Personal Representative (Executor or Administrator). It is required to gain access to the assets of the decedent. The term “short” certificate refers to the size of the document.
We are required by law to retain the original will. Since all records in this office are kept “forever,” the original document will always be available in some form. It is recommended that you make a copy of the original will for your records before you come to the office.
No. A will is not registered until the person who writes it (testator) dies. It is important that someone, usually your executor, knows the location of your will or the name of the attorney who prepared it.
We suggest that you contact an attorney for the form of the petition that must be prepared and presented to the Register of Wills to accept a copy of the will for probate. We cannot accept a copy. A petition and order must be presented to the judge to review and sign. Additional fees will be applied when filing a petition and order.
A testator is the person who wrote the will.
A Will is a written document signed by a person at least eighteen (18) years of age and of sound mind wherein that person directs the distribution of property at death. The Will may also appoint guardians of the estates of minors who receive property under the Will.
Yes. Generally, for young married persons - to dispose of their property and to appoint proper persons as the guardians of the persons and estates of their minor children; for the middle-aged - to provide a plan of distribution for their dependents by benefiting those with the greatest need and conserving their property for their spouse and/or children; and, for the elderly - to make distributions which benefit spouse, children, grandchild and charities.
Pennsylvania law applies to the appointment of personal representative and the distribution of property by designating the heirs and their share of the decedent’s estate. Guardians of the person and the property of minors must be appointed by the Orphans’ Court.
A Will is effective at the death of the testator. It may be revoked at any time prior to death by a Will or Codicil later in date or by destruction of the Will itself by the testator. The Will, which the Register may allow to Probate, is the last Will signed by the testator.
No. The law does not require eyewitnesses (subscribing witnesses) to the signature of the testator in order for the Will to be valid. However, it is the custom to have two (2) subscribing witnesses present since at the time of probate, two (2) witnesses, subscribing or non-subscribing, must appear and identify under oath the signature of the decedent on the Will. Wills can be made self-proven if proper acknowledgements and affidavits are signed by the testator and witnesses at the time of execution. Self-proving Wills eliminate the need for the witnesses appearing at the Register’s office.
Property owned solely in the name of the decedent passes by Will. Property owned by the entireties (husband and wife), jointly or in the trust does not pass by Will. Advice as to what specific property does or does not pass by Will and what property is or is not subject to Pennsylvania Inheritance Taxes should be obtained from your attorney.
No. A Will does not ’expire’ or become invalid because of the passage of time. It becomes operative when a person dies. A person may make many Wills in their lifetime. The last Will of the person before death is the valid one.
This is a document issued by the Register of Wills authorizing a particular person(s) to act as the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. If the person died with a will, the document is refereed to as Letters of Testamentary. If the person died without a will, the document is called Letters of Administration.
No. However, due to the complexity of the process, it is strongly recommended that an attorney be engaged. This office provides the forms but cannot offer any direction or legal advise as to the preparation.
The order of appointment is very detailed and specific. Usually, the spouse is the first one to qualify. If there is no spouse, then the children can apply to be appointed. These situations often require the advise of an attorney.
No. This office functions only as an agent for the filing of the Inheritance Tax Return and the payment of the Inheritance Tax. This means that we accept the return and payment and send them to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The staff is not trained to give direction or advice concerning the correct completion of the return or calculation of the tax. If you have further questions that are not answered in the Tax Return instruction booklet, you should contact an attorney or an accountant for assistance. The Inheritance Tax Booklet with instructions is provided by this office at the time that the Estate is opened.
In almost every case when a person dies having personal property or real estate, an estate should be administered.
If you wish to execute or make a living will:
The Living Will/Advance Directive does not get filed with the Register of Wills Office. The form does not need to be, but should be notarized. You should give a copy to your family and your doctor, your attorney or clergy person if you desire. Keep a copy in a secure place which is accessible to others if you become unable to act on your own behalf.
No. Life insurance proceeds are exempt from the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax provided that the decedent died after December 13, 1982.
It depends. Transfers made within one year of the death of the decedent, if made without valuable and adequate consideration in money or monies worth at the time of the transfer, is taxable to the extent that the transfer exceeds $3,000.00 per transferee during any calendar year. Property that was transferred with the decedent retaining a life interest in same is also taxable.
The rate of tax for transfers to a surviving spouse is dependent on the statute in effect as of the decedent’s date of death.
No. Pennsylvania does not recognize convenience accounts. If an individual adds a name to an account and should the person added to the account pre-decease, the surviving person whose name remains on the account would be required to pay Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax on a portion of the account.
An executor or administrator must obtain the necessary legal documents to enable him to act for the estate. These documents, called either LETTERS TESTAMENTARY (for an executor) or LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION (for an administrator), are obtained through the Register of Wills in the county in which the DECEDENT (the deceased person) lived at the time of death.
The duties of the personal representative include:
As a practical matter, it is very difficult for a non-lawyer to correctly follow the required procedures in administering an estate without the assistance of an attorney. The personal representative selects the attorney for the estate. If there is a will, it is a courtesy to the deceased to use the attorney who prepared the will. Otherwise, the executor or administrator may use an attorney who is known or who has been recommended. An attorney can also be located through a lawyer referral service, which will be listed in the yellow pages under the heading of "Attorneys," "Lawyers," "Attorney Referral Service," or "Lawyer Referral Service."
If the deceased has left a will, it is filed for probate in the office of the Register of Wills in the county in which the decedent resided. If the will is valid, its directions are followed in distributing the estate to the beneficiaries.
In addition to court costs, fees (usually based on a percentage of the gross value of the estate) are paid to the attorney and to the personal representative. These fees are paid out of the assets of the estate. Fee arrangements should be discussed during the first visit with the attorney who will be involved in the administration of the estate.