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Is Pennsylvania Child Support Ever Unenforceable?



Is Pennsylvania Child Support Ever Unenforceable?

Pennsylvania has many tools at its disposal to help enforce child support orders. For example, the court can attach wages, take income tax refunds, and even send noncompliant payors to jail. They can suspend driver’s licenses and deny passports, too.

But that doesn’t always mean payees receive a steady stream of child support. Studies estimate 59% of the people who have child support orders only receive partial payments, or no payments at all.

Which may lead you to wonder whether it’s worth the time and effort to continue pursuing child support. Here are some situations which make it difficult for courts to respond in an effective way.

Payor is Incarcerated

Some child support enforcement efforts make it harder for parents to receive what they’re owed. An ex who is in jail often doesn’t have the assets to make payments, and may have trouble securing an income later.

Many courts will not reduce or eliminate child support obligations in response to incarceration, but do not have easy answers for how someone who now has reduced access to income-bearing activities can actually meet the obligation. Courts usually will not hold an incarcerated payor in contempt while they are already in jail, even if they are incarcerated for crimes unrelated to their child support payments.

Payor Has No Income

Much depends on why the Payor has no income. Payors who refuse to work or who voluntarily quit their jobs are rarely successful at modifying their child support order. They voluntarily walked away from income, and so the courts hold them accountable for producing that income some other way.

A Payor who is fired or laid off has a much better chance of receiving a modification, though the court may demand that he or she produce evidence of an active job search in process.

If the court determines the payor is voluntarily underemployed, it may choose to “impute” income, which means they assess the value of the payor’s income at a higher value than what the payor is actually receiving.

This can mean a great deal of obligation stacks up in arrears before the payor decides to alter his or her employment situation for the better. He or she may make partial payments without triggering additional enforcement efforts, and lose the maximum amount of their paycheck allowable by law, but this doesn’t necessarily help you, the payor, meet all of your bills.

The Parent Can’t Be Found

Some payors try to get around their obligation by simply disappearing. The Pennsylvania Parent Locator System will attempt to locate your ex when this happens.

If they get any job that isn’t “under the table” they’ll typically eventually show up. That’s because there are national and state employment databases that compare employee data against child support order data to help the Parent Locator System send enforcement orders.

You have solutions while you wait.

If you’re undergoing a period where you are not receiving the child support that’s due you do have some options.

One option may be to turn to public assistance. In many cases, public assistance will step in where child support fails.

If you make too much income to take advantage of public assistance you might have to take a breath, downsize, be patient, and wait. Work with the child support enforcement office to help them do their job, and understand that the system isn’t perfect.

In fact, whenever possible it’s not a bad idea to, directly after a divorce, set up your personal living situation in a way that allows you to live without support. Then you can use your support as a buffer instead of relying on it entirely. It is hard to predict what your ex may attempt to do to try getting out of paying his or her obligation, and in the meantime, you do have children to raise.

Finally, remember that enforcing child support is the court’s job, not yours. If you’re having trouble, turn to your divorce attorney. Don’t try to compel your spouse by withholding visitation time (it’s against the law) or even by arguing with your spouse over support monies (which is bad for the children).

Instead, let your attorney guide you through the court system so you can achieve the best possible outcome.

See also:

Who Can Testify At a Pennsylvania Custody Hearing or Trial?

Can Child Support Be Garnished from Two Jobs in Pennsylvania?

Can An Adult Child Sue For Back Child Support in Pennsylvania?

Types of Child Custody in Pennsylvania

Guidelines For Father’s Rights in Pennsylvania


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