Filing for Support During a Divorce in Harrisburg PennsylvaniaJune 14, 2013
Harrisburg Divorce Attorney Explains Filing for Support
In keeping with the basic overview I have already provided in prior posts regarding divorce, I thought it best to provide some basic information about filing for support and the process when doing so in Harrisburg and surrounding areas.
The Question of Support
When a couple first separates here in Harrisburg, the question of support is often in the forefront of the conversation. At this stage of the process the parties will typically go through the process of filing for child support (if there are minor children of the marriage) and/or spousal support or alimony pendent lite.
When there are children born of a relation, the parties have a duty to financially support the children. Generally, the party that has primary physical custody of the children is the party to file for child support. For purposes of child support, primary physical custody is determined by the number of overnight visits a party has in a given year. The party with primary physical custody has more than 50% of the overnights in a year. If the parties equally share physical custody of the child/children, there could still be child support obligation. In this case, the party filing for child support is typically the party that has a lower monthly income. However, the paying party will receive an additional credit because they have the child/children half the time.
Child Support Guidelines
Child support is determined based on Pennsylvania’s Child Support Guidelines and is calculated based on the combined monthly net income of the parties. So, the amount of support fluctuates based on the parties’ income. When you have two parties that have steady jobs and receive a W-2 each year, the calculation is not that difficult. However, the calculations get more complicated when you have someone who is self-employed or who operates their own business or corporation. But regardless of the complexity of a persons’ income there are a few general things to keep in mind:
- Union dues and non-voluntary retirement contributions will be deducted from a parties’ gross income.
- Day care expenses can be included in the child support calculation.
- Credit will be given to the party that provides health insurance (if there is an additional out-of-pocket premium paid).
- The party receiving support will be responsible for the first $250 per year per child in unreimbursed medical expenses and the rest will be shared by the parties based on the pro rata share of their income.
Typically, child support will continue until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is latest.
Spousal Support in Harrisburg
In addition to child support, a party may also be eligible to file for spousal support or alimony pendent lite (APL). The two forms of support are calculated the same way, but the intent/purpose is different. On a very basic level, spousal support is used for the support and maintenance of the lower income spouse, whereas APL is to put the parties on equal footing to litigate the divorce. They are both calculated based on the parties’ net monthly incomes. The same general rules outlined above apply to determining spousal support/APL calculations as to child support. However, spousal support/APL typically terminate when the divorce is finalized.
In order to file for support, a party must file a complaint for support with the Domestic Relations Office. A conference will then be scheduled with a conference officer, at which time both parties appear to provide their income information and information on any expenses (day care, health insurance, etc.). The conference officer will then enter a recommended order for support that will become a final order after 20 days if neither party appeals. Depending on the county in which you reside, if you appeal, your case will either be heard by a judge, a master, or a hearing officer and the review will be a “de novo” review, which means the judge/master/hearing officer will review the case anew – as if the conference never happened.
Bring Your Documentation
To prepare for the initial conference, parties should bring with them copies of any pay stubs, 1099s, W-2, or any other information to document their earnings, current tax returns, documentation to verify day care expenses, documentation to verify any extracurricular expenses for the children, and copies of medical insurance cards.
This post is intended to provide a cursory review of support. Every case is different depending on the situations of the parties and there may be certain aspects of the support law that apply to one person’s case, but not another person’s case. But I hope this provides some very basic information to keep in mind when filing for support.