Category Archives: Child Support

What You Need to Know About Pennsylvania’s Child Support Rules and College

It is the rare couple that doesn’t quibble over money in the midst of divorce proceedings, so arguments and negotiations are generally expected. But even those expecting acrimony are shocked when their soon-to-be-ex announces that they are no longer contributing to college. They’re even more shocked to learn their spouse is perfectly within their rights to make this decision.

In the state of Pennsylvania, no parent is required to pay for their child’s college, and as a result the courts have determined that the same is true in the case of divorce, regardless of means or previous promises. Even if their children’s college attendance was part of a couple’s plans and dreams and they were diligently putting away money for tuition, there is no legal requirement that they continue that support unless a separate agreement to do so is negotiated.

The issue of whether Pennsylvania’s child support requirements included the cost of college was resolved by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in November of 1992, when a son sued his father over college tuition. The case, Blue v. Blue, involved parents who had been paying their son’s Penn State tuition together until they separated. Their son, a sophomore, took a leave of absence from school and then enrolled at Lehigh County Community College where both parents worked. He had been living with his father, who paid his tuition and all of his expenses, but then the father moved out of the house and started a new life with his girlfriend and her children. He purchased a new home and paid almost all of his new family’s expenses while his son moved in with his mother, re-enrolled at Penn State, and then sought tuition support from his father, who refused.

Though the lower court hearing the case – and later a Superior Court – ordered the father to pay a portion of his son’s tuition based on a previous state Supreme Court decision, that same court reversed this determination on appeal. They said that the original case had involved an agreement to pay tuition that had been incorporated into a divorce decree rather than on a legal obligation to do so as part of child support, and that therefore it was wrongly decided. The court noted that in the previous case they had not “unequivocally adopted a legal principle that a parent has a legal obligation to provide college expenses,” and went on to say that they had found “no legal authority to require a parent to provide for college educational support.”

Pennsylvania is one of twenty-six states in the country that does not give courts the authority to order a non-custodial parent to pay for some form of college expenses. And though the court will uphold oral agreements, agreements made during the marriage are considered to have been based on the assumption of living together and sharing expenses, and become moot once the marriage ends.

The Pennsylvania courts do enforce agreements to pay for college if they are drafted as part of a divorce settlement. For assistance in negotiating and crafting this type of support for your children, contact our experienced divorce attorneys today.

CAN A DIVORCE AGREEMENT BE CHANGED?

If you have decided to get a divorce, you may or may not be apprehensive about the whole process. For example, if you and your spouse have minor children together and you have acquired some marital assets, such as a nice home with a little equity, you may be nervous about child custody and property division.

When we represent clients in their divorce actions, we highly recommend that spouses create marital settlement agreements before the divorce is final. Settlement agreements can address what happens to a couple’s assets and debts, and what happens to their children.

In a standard marital settlement agreement, the couple will agree on the following:

  • Child custody
  • Visitation
  • Property division
  • Debt division
  • What will happen to the marital home
  • Spousal support (if any)
  • What will happen to a spouse’s business (if applicable)

Marital settlement agreements are very valuable tools. Why? Because they allow spouses to reach agreements on very important issues, they give the spouses clarity on what to expect, and they can help spouses avoid having to go to court later for these specific issues because they failed to do so during the divorce.

Settlement agreements put everything in writing in a legally-enforceable, legally-binding document. However, it’s important to note one key facet of these agreements – certain provisions contained within are subject to change.

If you were worried that you could never go back to court and ask for a change in child custody or support, or spousal support, you can breathe a sigh of relief because these may be changed in the future – they are not necessarily set in stone.

Family Court Judges Know That Things Change

If you are about to ask for a divorce, it’s important that you know that your life will go through a lot of changes in the next 5 to 10 years, and same goes for your children and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. For example, you could remarry and want to relocate, or your spouse may do the same.

You may lose your job, or your ex may lose theirs. If you’re paying spousal support, your ex may re-marry before your spousal support payments are supposed to end. Or, your son may dislike your ex-wife’s new husband and when he’s 14, he may want to move in with you instead.

Perhaps you’re a stay-at-home mom today, but after going back to school and getting a nursing license, you may dramatically increase your income. In that case, your ex-husband may go back to court and ask to lower your spousal support payments. Or, your ex-husband may have a $100,000 per year increase in pay, and you may want to ask the court to increase his child support obligation.

Post-Judgement Modifications

Whatever marital settlement agreement you and your spouse agree to, we want you to know that matters pertaining to child custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support can be changed in the future.

Either spouse can ask the court for a post-judgement modification, however, the petitioning spouse must show the court a significant change in circumstances warrants their request for a change.

Looking for a Pennsylvania no-fault divorce lawyer? Contact No Contest Divorce, LLC today!

DOES YOUR CHILD NEED EXTRA FINANCIAL HELP THIS FALL?

Child support orders are not set in stone and, if you have a sufficient reason for it, modifications can be granted. These modifications can either be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances. Therefore, if your child is in need of some extra financial help this fall and the payments your former spouse is currently making are not enough, you might be able to request a temporary modification to cover any extra expenses your child might have.

Some situations in which a temporary modification to increase child support might be granted include a child’s medical emergency, temporary loss of the custodial parent’s employment, or a medical emergency of the custodial parent.

Changing Your Child Support Order

Even if you and your spouse have agreed on the modification, you still need the same court that granted the child support order to officially grant the requested modifications. This means you will have to go before a judge and explain your reasons before the child support order can be changed. If you and your spouse disagree on the change, you will have to request a hearing where both you and the other parent will have to argue your case and present evidence that supports why the modifications should or should not be made.

Generally, the court favors keeping child support orders stable, so make sure your reasons for the modification are not on a whim, but rather based on a real need.

Child Support Attorney in Pennsylvania

At No Contest Divorce, LLC, we do not represent clients engaged in custody battles, but rather focus on uncontested, no-fault disputes. Our internet-based services will enable you to save money and avoid the outrageous fees of a conventional law firm, no matter what type of family law matter you are facing. You deserve excellent, prompt, and affordable services.

Contact our offices today for a free initial legal consultation at 215.839.1162

 

CAN I NEGOTIATE MY OWN DIVORCE SETTLEMENT?

If you’re seriously contemplating a divorce, you may be afraid of the costs involved. You might have heard people say something to the effect of, “Don’t even try to negotiate your own divorce settlement. That’s what attorneys are for.”

As you think of these warnings, you begin to imagine the attorney fees rising until you begin to rationalize, “I can’t afford to get a divorce.” Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it is possible to obtain a cheap, no-fault divorce in no time at all, but there’s a catch: you and your spouse need to work together to reach a fair settlement.

No Contest Divorce, LLC Encourages You to Negotiate Yourself

At No Contest Divorce, LLC, we help couples obtain cheap, no-fault divorces. Unlike other law firms, we actually encourage spouses to negotiate their own divorce settlement. This may go against conventional wisdom, but it’s proven to be a highly-effective way for couples to obtain a low-cost divorce within a short timeframe.

“Most lawyers will tell you not to even try to negotiate your own divorce settlement. That’s because lawyers believe that they can negotiate for you better than you can negotiate for yourself,” Karen Covy wrote in HuffPost. About negotiating your own divorce, Covy said, “it’s not rocket science.”

“While divorce negotiations are definitely not for everyone, negotiating even a part of your own divorce settlement can save you time and money, if you do it right!” Covy wrote. We have to agree with Covy because that’s how our clients are able to obtain a divorce for just $319, including court costs and legal fees – by being cooperative with each other until they reach a mutually-satisfying divorce settlement.

Quick tips for negotiating:

  • Educate yourself on Pennsylvania’s divorce laws so you know your rights and responsibilities under the law.
  • Understand your assets, debts and post-divorce bills before you open your mouth.
  • If you have kids, make sure you understand the law in regards to child custody and support.
  • Know what you want and ask your attorney if it’s fair.
  • Do a post-divorce budget so you understand what you need.
  • Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes, and ask them to put themselves in yours.
  • Agree to work towards a fair, mutually-acceptable agreement.
  • Be polite and respectful and treat it like a business transaction. Check your emotions at the door.
  • Know what you want, but be flexible when necessary and remain open to advice and suggestions from your spouse and your divorce attorney.

To learn more about negotiating a no-fault divorce, contact No Contest Divorce, LLC today. We are here to give you the guidance you need during this difficult time.

WHEN DOES CHILD SUPPORT END IN PENNSYLVANIA?

Each state has established its own laws in regards to child support. Like other states, Pennsylvania law requires that both parents financially support their children, even after they are divorced.

In Pennsylvania, parents have to support their children until they are 18. However, if a child does not graduate high school until they are 19, the non-custodial parent may have to pay child support until the child graduates high school.

“Are there any exceptions?” Yes, if a child is emancipated, or if he or she turns 18 but they are no longer attending high school, either parent can file a Petition for Modification for an Existing Support Order, which asks the court to stop the child support.

In some cases, a teenage child may be 18 or older, but he or she may have physical disabilities or mental health challenges that may require child support even after the child’s 19th birthday.

What if a Noncustodial Parent Fails to Pay Child Support?

Nonpayment of child support can lead to several negative consequences, including but not limited to:

  • Your bank accounts can be seized.
  • Your personal injury and workers’ compensation awards can be seized.
  • Your state and federal tax refunds can be seized.
  • Your driver license, professional, occupational, and recreational licenses (hunting and fishing) can be suspended.
  • Liens can be placed against any real property you own.
  • If you win the lottery, it can be intercepted.
  • The delinquency can be reported on your credit.
  • You can be held in contempt of court, which can result in up to six months in jail and a fine up to $500, and up to six months of probation.

Please be aware that child support arrears cannot be included in bankruptcy. Instead, they remain an outstanding debt until it’s paid in full. If a downward modification of a child support order is allowed by a judge, it will not eliminate or reduce the accumulated arrears.

CAN CHILD SUPPORT ARREARS IMPACT INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL?

When it comes to things getting in the way of travelling abroad, people tend to think about tax debt, being on probation or parole, and having pending criminal charges – those types of issues. But past-due child support? That’s usually the furthest from people’s minds.

If you’re headed toward a Pennsylvania divorce and you have minor children with your spouse, it’s important that you know that if a noncustodial parent falls behind on their child support payments, he or she can be barred from obtaining a U.S. passport.

According to travel.state.gov, “If you owe $2,500 or more in child support, you are not eligible to receive a U.S. passport.” So, what if you are the one that ends up paying child support and you fall more than $2,500 behind?

You cannot get a U.S. passport until you contact the local child support agency and make arrangements to pay the child support arrears. Once you’ve made acceptable payment arrangements, after about 2 or 3 weeks, your application can be processed as normal.

To learn more about obtaining a U.S. passport when you owe arrears, click here.

Passport Denials Aren’t the Only Concern

When parents get divorced for the first time in Pennsylvania, they don’t always understand the full ramifications of falling behind on their child support payments. If you’re going to be paying child support, we want you to know that if you fall behind, any of the following can occur and they are not positive:

  • Your bank account can be seized.
  • The arrears can be reported on your credit.
  • Your tax refund can be intercepted.
  • Any lottery winnings can be intercepted.
  • Your driver license can be suspended.
  • Your professional and occupational licenses can be suspended.
  • Your recreational licenses (hunting and fishing) can be suspended.
  • Liens can be placed against your real estate properties.
  • You can be held in contempt of court.
  • If all other collection efforts fail, you can be fined and incarcerated.

To learn more, we recommend reading, “Beware of Pennsylvania’s Dead Beat Parent Law.” To obtain a no-fault divorce for just $319, please contact No Contest Divorce, LLC today!

OWE CHILD SUPPORT? YOU MAY NOT GET A STIMULUS CHECK

On March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). In a few short days, businesses across the nation had closed their doors after receiving orders from their state governments to shut down operations. To help Americans deal with the economic impact of the pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and on March 27, President Trump signed the Act into law.

As a critical part of the Act, individuals were to receive $1,200 stimulus payments and married couples were to receive $2,400. Additionally, parents were to receive $500 for each child age 16 and under – that’s $500 per child, per household. If the parents lived in separate households, only the parent who claimed the child as a dependent could receive a check for their child. Most Americans qualify for economic stimulus payments, but there are exceptions, specifically parents who owe back child support.

The Treasury Offset Program

Lots of people have debt, but that doesn’t mean it will be taken from their stimulus check. If you owe tax debt, your stimulus check won’t be touched by the Treasury Offset Program, which does take tax refunds and pay them toward back taxes. However, if you owe back child support, that’s another story.

“The economic impact payments can be offset through the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) only to collect delinquent child support obligations that have been referred by the state to TOP,” according to the Bureau of Fiscal Service, a government agency.

But how much of your economic stimulus payment can be taken to pay back child support? It depends on how much you owe. “Your entire economic impact payment can be offset, up to the amount of your child support debt.”

Note: If your spouse owes child support and you file your taxes jointly, your portion can go to your spouse’s child support arrears. To prevent this from happening, you’d want to file an injured spouse form with the IRS.