When it comes to your children, you want the very best, often in spite of the costs attached. But divorce introduces a great deal of uncertainty, emotionally and financially. Suddenly, your plans for your children are threatened because you can’t be certain about the resources you’ll have to raise them now that you and your spouse are living in separate households. At Voit Family Law, PLLC, attorney Catherine H. Voit understands the turmoil you’re going through. Relying on 25 years of experience in contentious family law disputes, Catherine helps you navigate Pennsylvania child support law and the court process to obtain a settlement or order that fits your family circumstances.
To bring predictability and fairness to child support decisions, the commonwealth has enacted child support guidelines that provide a basic child support amount. These guidelines are based on the income shares model and work as follows:
However, the judge can deviate from this amount based on evidence the parties present to the court. Common reasons to deviate from the basic support amount include:
The court can consider any relevant facts that have an impact on the best interests of the children.
The obligation to pay child support lasts until a child reaches the age of 19 or graduates from high school, whichever is later. Other factors, such as the child’s health, can extend the period of child support.
The court regularly reviews child support orders every four years to see if a modification is needed. However, if a parent feels a modification is necessary due to a material change in circumstances, that parent can file a Petition for Modification with the court to increase or decrease the obligation. The other parent has the right to challenge the motion.
Many parents get themselves into trouble by negotiating informal changes to the support order rather than going back to court for a new order. They hope to save on expenses but fail to understand that until the order is changed, the old order is enforceable. So, for example, if you are paying support and you’ve lost your job and you ask your ex to settle for less until you’re back on your feet, you are still liable for any unpaid support. Your agreeable ex can have a change of heart at any time and ask the court for an order of enforcement for the support you did not pay.
Parents ordered to pay support should always continue to make payments when they have the means, because a willful refusal to pay support exposes that parent to harsh remedies, such as wage garnishment, the suspension of a driver’s license and/or professional license, and jail time for contempt of court. So, even if your ex is interfering with your child custody or visitation rights, don’t withhold child support as leverage. It’s better to go to court and ask the judge to enforce your visitation order than to put yourself on the wrong side of the law.
Catherine H. Voit draws on more than 25 years of experience to offer the sound legal advice you deserve for your child support issues. Call Catherine today at 484-881-3185 or contact her online. Evening appointments are available upon request. From her office in West Chester, Catherine represents clients in the greater Chester County area, including Montgomery County and Delaware County.