Often, when people first separate from their spouses, their biggest concern is how they will manage their finances going forward. This is especially concerning when one parent stays home to care for young children.
Filing for Support with the local Domestic Relations Office should be considered early on in the divorce process, in order to even up the financial playing field. The first step is to file a Complaint for Support with the Domestic Relations Section. A Domestic Relations conference will be scheduled for a conference in approximately one month.
Support is broken down into Child Support, and Spousal Support or Alimony pendente lite (“APL”). Child support is money a parent pays to help provide food, clothing and other necessities for children. Health insurance coverage, child care expenses and private school tuition, may also be included in a parent’s child support obligation. Spousal Support is money a married person is liable to pay to a spouse, according to their respective abilities to pay. Alimony Pendente Lite is money a married person is liable to pay to a spouse, while a divorce action is pending, in order to allow the spouse to defend themselves during the divorce litigation. Spousal Support and APL both benefit the adult spouse, and employ the same calculation. Although Spousal Support and APL are similar, there are specific situations wherein choosing one over the other is beneficial. An attorney should be consulted before making that decision.
At the Domestic Relations Conference, the parties and their attorneys will sit at a conference table with a Domestic Relations Officer. Each party is required to bring 6 months of paystubs, their most recent tax returns, and verification of childcare expenses and medical coverage. The Domestic Relations Officer will use that information to determine each party’s net monthly income.
Very importantly, net monthly income is gross monthly income, minus federal, state and local tax deductions. Other deductions such as 401(k) withholdings, are not typically deducted. The reason is that children’s immediate needs should not take a back seat to parent’s future retirement. After all, children cannot fend for themselves yet.
Child support uses a grid of numbers called the Support Guidelines. On the vertical axis, is the combined net monthly income of both parties, which ranges from $950 per month, to $30,000 per month. On the horizontal axis, is the number of children, from one (1) to six (6). The Support Guidelines were developed because studies showed that the proportion of household spending devoted to children is directly related to the amount of household income and to the number of children.
It is important to know that Child Support is a very serious matter in our country. To quote explanatory comment to one of the Pennsylvania Support Rules, “the problem of welfare in the United States, is, to a considerable extent a problem of the nonsupport of children by their absent parents. Of the 11 million recipients, 4 out of 5 (80%) are on the rolls because they have been deprived of the support of a parent who has absented themselves from the home.”
Paternity testing may be used to identify fathers of children born out of wedlock. Also, bench warrants are issued for failure to appear at support conferences, and for failure to pay support.
Failure to pay support after being ordered to do so, can result in enforcement or contempt proceedings, which may result in jail time, if the judge finds you to be in contempt. Also, nonpayment of support can result in freezing of bank accounts, seizing of tax refunds, and suspension of professional licenses, driver’s licenses and passports.
The bottom line is that it is important for children and their parents to be financially stable. Support is not something the other party files to be vindictive. It is based on income. And to some extent, parties’ respective incomes may be a result of decisions they made together.
For more information, call (610) 222-5959, to schedule your free initial consultation.