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How Can Sadek & Cooper Legal Offices Help You?
Having children is a life-long commitment, regardless of whether or not you remain married to or in a relationship with the person who helped bring a child or children into the world. That being said, if parents divorce or separate they need to ensure that their children are appropriately cared for. Child Support is the legal method that ensures that a child is provided the appropriate financial support from both of the parents regardless of their relationship.
At Sadek and Cooper, our attorneys have extensive experience handling a wide range of child support issues for clients throughout the Philadelphia region. If you have questions or concerns regarding establishing a child support order, modifying an existing child support order, or are concerned with enforcing a child support order, contact us today to speak with one of our experienced attorneys. Call Now: 215-814-0395 24 HOURS PER DAY – 7 DAYS A WEEK
Under Pennsylvania Law, parents are required to help cover the costs of raising a child. When a child’s parents cohabitate with each other and actively contribute to raising their child or children there is no need for the court to step in and analyze how much one parent is contributing. However, when parents separate the law in Pennsylvania imposes an ongoing obligation on both parents to contribute to their child’s continual care. However, the court does not simply issue a ruling with an amount of money one parent is expected to pay. The judge must apply the Child Support Guidelines as set forth by law. To do so the judge will look at a variety of factors including income, earning capacity, and custody arrangements. However, the analysis for determining child support can become incredibly complex and depends on:
- The number of children who are subject to a pending action
- The net monthly income of a non-custodial parent
- The amount of monthly support or alimony paid by a non-custodial parent to a spouse from a prior relationship
- The monthly cost of family group health insurance paid by non-custodial parents
- The net monthly income of a custodial parent
- The amount of monthly child support paid for children from a prior marriage by a custodial parent
- The monthly cost of family group health insurance paid by a Custodial parent
- The monthly cost of daycare paid for by a custodial parent
As you can imagine it can be difficult to determine the appropriate amount of child support, and this can be further complicated if the other parent is not willing to cooperate. The attorneys at Sadek and Cooper can help you in all aspects of establishing an appropriate amount of child support.
How are Child Support Orders Enforced?
Sadly, some parents do not feel the need to contribute to their children’s upbringing and care. Parents have gone so far as to refuse to pay their child support payments. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools and laws that are available to a parent who is in custody of a child and who is not receiving child support payments. A parent who has a valid child support order, who is not receiving child support payments may:
- File a court action to enforce the child support order
- Request assistance through the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement which can:
- Automatically deduct child support from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck
- Withhold child support directly from the non-custodial parent’s unemployment payments, Worker’s Compensation funds, Social Security benefits or Veteran’s Disability benefits
- Garnish wages and income
- Attach a lien against real property, such as a home
- Seize bank accounts
- Seize a personal injury settlement
- Restrict or revoke a delinquent parent’s occupational or professional license
- Restrict or revoke a delinquent parent’s driver’s license and passport
- Restrict or revoke a delinquent parent’s recreational licenses, such as a fishing license
- Intercept federal or state tax refunds
- Intercept lottery winnings
- Publishing the delinquent parent’s name in the newspaper, and
- Report the child support debt to credit reporting agencies, resulting in a negative credit report.
In addition to these remedies and enforcement methods, the court may also hold a parent who has not paid their child support payments can be held in contempt of court and can issue monetary fines as well as jail sentences of up to six months.
Can I Control How Child Support Money is Spent?
When you’re being asked to write a big check to your ex for care of the children, it’s natural to feel frustrated. If you don’t trust your ex it might seem like he or she is living it up while you’re struggling to survive.
And in most cases, you can’t control how the money is spent. Often, your child support payment gets co-mingled into the other parent’s income, and it isn’t necessarily easy for them to account for every dime.
What you can do is look to see whether your children’s needs are being met.
- Are they eating three meals a day?
- Do they have clean clothes that are in good condition?
- Do their clothes and shoes fit?
- Are they receiving necessary medical care?
- Do they have their school supplies?
- Are they attending school?
- Do they have a place to live?
- Are the utility bills being paid?
If all these things are true, then your money is being spent as it should. You can’t tell your ex that he or she shouldn’t have anything beyond these things in his or her life just to satisfy your desire to make sure your money is being spent appropriately.
If your ex is not meeting your children’s needs you should document instances that have demonstrated this, and instances where you’ve paid extra to address these problems. Be sure to save your receipts.
You can also have your lawyer bring the matter before the court. If you believe the money is being misused you might even be able to use it as cause to modify the custody order, which could turn you into the custodial parent. This would mean the other parent must pay child support instead. And of course, child neglect is a crime.
If you are in the middle of a divorce and have a concern you can consider trying to work an accountability provision into your divorce decree and support order. If your spouse is bound by court order, including orders generated by the settlement process, then he or she will have to produce a record of the way the money was spent.
You might also try to negotiate an in-kind support order where you pay directly for items the child needs. The court would have to be satisfied that this has actually happened, and that you’ll be doing it enough to satisfy Pennsylvania state support guidelines.
If you’re having problems with custody and support, don’t try to handle them alone. Contact Sadek and Cooper today for a confidential consultation.
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.
Contact our Philadelphia Child Support Lawyers
At Sadek and Cooper, we can help you in all aspects of child support. Our experienced attorneys can help you establish child support, help you modify an existing child support order, and can help you enforce a child support order.