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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 There are certain exceptions to this rule which may apply when the child has turned 18 and has withdrawn or dropped out of high school or when a child has special needs.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.
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. All conferences now occur by telephone only and most hearings occur using video conferencing if parties need to appear in person. Case members personal information can be made confidential upon request. At a conference or hearing 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 by audio, video or in person.
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. All conferences occur by telephone only and most hearings occur through video conferencing. In person hearings occasionally occur; read your notice carefully. 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 the notice and order, there is Income and Expense Statement which must be completed prior to the support conference or hearing.
All conferences occur by telephone only and most hearings occur through video conferencing. In person hearings so occasionally occur; read your notice carefully.
If you are required to appear in person, appear at and be prepared to remain for up to two (2) hours after scheduled start time.
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.
All conferences occur by telephone and most hearings by video conferencing. For genetic tests, genetic testing hearings, and by request, hearings may occur onsite.
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 be present for support or contempt hearings by telephone or video conference, 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 noncustodial parent in the case (the person who pays support), must appear in person for contempt hearings and genetic testing. If they are not required to physically appear, they are responsible for participation in a telephone conference hearing or conference. This is done by returning the participation form for their conference or hearing. They must also provide income and expense information prior to their scheduled hearing or conference. See enclosed directions for more information,
Failing to appear by audio, video or in person if required for a support conference 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.