Child Support, Spousal Support, and Alimony

Child Support, Spousal Support, and Alimony

When a couple divorces, there are many legal matters to have to be addressed before a marriage is officially dissolved. After child custody is determined, the court must then decide upon the matter of child support. Regardless of the custody arrangement, both parents have to support the child. Child support is payments set by the court that a non-custodial parent must make to the custodial parent in order to continue caring for their child after the divorce. In Pennsylvania, parents are required to financially assist their child until they reach the age of emancipation.

How Are Child Support Payments Decided?

When a court determines the amount for child support payments, they do so with the intent to maintain the standard of living that the child was used to before the divorce happened. These payments can be used for any matter regarding the child. This can include housing, food, entertainment, schooling, extracurricular activities, and more. The court determines child support based on several factors. These factors may include:

  • The income of the non-custodial parent
  • The income of the custodial parent
  • The age of the children
  • Any financial requirements of the children

Spousal Support

If married parties separate,  one spouse may owe the other support or alimony payments.  Payments ordered before a divorce is finalized are known as spousal support or alimony pendente lite.   If support is awarded beyond the entry of a divorce settlement, the payments are referred to as permanent alimony (permanent does not always mean permanent—”permanent alimony” payments may be limited in duration).

If support, alimony pendente lite or permanent alimony is warranted, the parties can agree to the amount which will be paid.  If they cannot agree, the Court will decide.

In some cases, the amount of the payment can change over time as circumstances change.  Some factors which may lead to a change in the order are:

  • Change in income of either party
  • One party becomes disabled

In a permanent alimony situation, the receiving party starts living with someone else

Enforcing Child Support

There are some cases in which a non-custodial parent falls behind on payments or ignores the obligation altogether. When this happens, Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Child Support Enforcement steps in to resolve the issue. Some actions that may be taken by the Bureau is to receive court orders for child support. One order that can be issued is an income withholding order. This directs an employer to take child support payments from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck for all current support and unpaid past support. If this method is unsuccessful, the “Insurance Intercept Program” is available. This allows insurance settlement money to be accessed in order to pay child support.

If a parent fails to pay their court-ordered support payments, they can face certain consequences. This may include:

  • A charge of civil contempt
  • Seizing bank accounts and tax refunds
  • Suspension of a drivers license
  • Passports being denied

Child Support Modifications

When parents do not reside together, one parent may owe child support to the other.  Many parents resolve the support question on their own. If they cannot reach an agreement, the party seeking support may ask the local court to decide how much support is owed.  Once support is ordered, the court will administer and enforce the order. In Pennsylvania, wage attachments are almost always used to collect support payments.

The amount of child support is affected by many factors. The court will start by applying a formula based on each party’s income and the number of children.  The formula considers each party’s earnings, the custody arrangement, the cost of health insurance and daycare, a child’s special needs, whether the child should attend private school, etc.

Once a child support order is established by the Court, that amount can be changed if circumstances change.   For example, if the parents decide to move from an alternate weekend custody arrangement to a 50/50 arrangement, that probably will have an impact on the child support amount.   Some of the factors which could lead to a modification of the support amount are

  • A change in custody arrangements;
  • Loss of employment due to no fault of the working parent;
  • An increase or decrease in income;
  • If a child requires significant funds for medical treatments

The new 2019 support rules.  How do they change the amount of support or alimony which will be ordered?

The new tax law resulted in significant changes to the way support and alimony are calculated.  For cases where there was an order in existence before January, 2019, the method of calculating support generally remains the same. For cases that are started after January 1, 2019, the formula for alimony/spousal support and child support has changed.  Alimony is no longer tax deductible for the paying spouse, and no longer taxed as income for the recipient. Because of this, the amount of alimony or spousal support paid is generally lower. On the other hand, because the paying spouse pays less alimony, that spouse has more money available to pay child support.  While alimony may be lower than it was using the old formula, child support may be more.

Custody and Visitation Schedules

Many separated parents are able to decide on a custody schedule without outside help.  If the parties cannot agree, either party can ask the court to decide the custody schedule.  Once that schedule is decided, it is never final. Either party can ask the court to modify the schedule.  The court may change the schedule depending on what is best for the child

Some of the reasons for modification include:

  • If one parent relocates
  • Any medical problems with the child or a parent
  • A change in a parent’s employment schedule
  • One parent tries to sabotage the relationship between the other parent and the child.
  • A negative change in the child’s school performance

Contact our Firm

If you or a family member is seeking representation for a child support case, contact Anderson, Converse & Fennick today.

Anderson, Converse & Fennick is an experienced law firm in York County, Pennsylvania focusing on Education Law, Family Law, Estate Planning, and Civil Litigation matters. If you need a knowledgeable attorney that will effectively represent your interests, contact Anderson, Converse & Fennick today.

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