The Basics of Paying or Receiving Support

The Basics of Paying or Receiving Support

The term “support” encompasses a wide range of payment possibilities and different scenarios.   No two people’s scenarios are necessarily the same and consultation with an attorney regarding your specific situation is imperative.

A support order can be for child support and/or spousal support.  Entitlement and amount of child support depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to: shared physical custody, primary physical custody, overnight visitation, income disparity of the parties, health insurance premiums, childcare costs, paternity and earning capacities. Entitlement and amount of spousal support also depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to: amount awarded for child support, health insurance premiums, income disparity of the parties, earning capacities and wrongdoing of the parties.


Establishing the Support Order


A support action is commenced with the Plaintiff/Payee filing a Support Complaint at the local County Domestic Relations Office.  After entitlement to either or both forms of support has been established, the support order amount will be determined in a conference by a support conference officer at the County Domestic Relations Office.  A conference officer is an individual trained to calculate support orders based upon all relevant factors presented.  The support order will not be entered over a maximum percentage of the payor’s total income from all sources no matter the income from all sources of the payee.  The support order is typically effective as of the date the Plaintiff/Payee filed the Support Complaint, leaving the Defendant/Payor with an arrears balance which he or she is typically required to pay at a set amount per payment period until the arrears are paid in full.

When a support order has been entered by Domestic Relations, a wage attachment is typically entered and the support is paid by the payor’s employer directly to the Pennsylvania State Collection and Disbursement Unit, which then disburses the payment to the payee. The Payee receives their support payment by check, on a debit-type card, or direct deposited into the financial institution of the Payee’s choosing.




The initial amount entered as the Support Order will be the amount that the Payor will pay until such time as it is changed by further action of Domestic Relations.  This change can be initiated by either party (Payor or Payee) and can be changed for various reasons, including, but not limited to: change in physical custody, change in income, change in employment, loss of employment, entry of a divorce decree, graduation of a child, change in childcare costs, change in insurance premiums.  To change a support order, the party seeking the change must file a Petition for Modification with the Domestic Relations Office that is handling the Support Order.  A support conference is again held with a support conference officer to review the changes in circumstances and enter a new Support Order based upon those changes.  Some changes will lead to a change in Order, Including the loss of a job due to no fault of the party liable for support, but the Order will not be reduced if there is a voluntary loss of income to attempt to evade support payments. Even if you are unaware of any changes, the Support Order is entitled to annual review initiated by either party.

Failure to pay may result in a finding of contempt which is punishable by imprisonment up to six months.

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