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Berks County Divorce Law Blog

How child support is determined in Pennsylvania

Child support payments are determined by a Pennsylvania court after taking into consideration a variety of factors. In some cases, one parent will be ordered to pay child support while in others, both parents might be ordered to pay if the child is not in their custody.

Generally, child support payments are made by the non-custodial parent until the child is 18 or until the child graduates high school. The payments might go on for longer if the child has certain physical or mental disabilities. Even if non-custodial parents are not working, they might be ordered to pay support. The child support order includes monetary assistance for food, shelter and clothing as well as the payment of health insurance, child care, the costs for visitation travel, if applicable, as well as extracurricular activities. In some cases, it can include extraordinary medical costs.

Child support and dispute resolution processes

Pennsylvania parents who are getting a divorce and who have young children have options for their child support agreements besides going to court and having a judge decide. For example, they may want to enter into informal negotiations with the help of their attorneys. They could even have their attorneys conduct these negotiations for them.

Another possibility is a more formal set of negotiations using alternative dispute resolution processes. Two of these are mediation and collaborative law, and they bring parents into the process of conflict resolution. The idea with these methods is to put aside the more adversarial process of litigation and work together to reach a solution that satisfies all parties. Arbitration, like litigation, brings in a third party to hear both sides and reach a solution, but it may not be legally binding.

Essential financial planning steps for divorce

Pennsylvania law will guide many aspects of a divorce, especially if the former spouses cannot reach an agreement out of court. Because of the substantial financial changes that could result when a marriage comes to an end, legal and financial professionals advise their clients to evaluate their finances before filing. This process would include tracking current income and expenses and taking the time to envision how a budget would work post divorce. This information about meeting daily household needs could be important to the determination of the divorce settlement, including child or spousal support.

Divorce planning also entails collecting financial records. In addition to tax returns, a person needs to organize statements for checking, savings, retirement and investing accounts. Credit card statements, documentation for other loans and payroll records need to be included. This process can become contentious if one spouse managed the finances and does not want to cooperate. An attorney might need to ask for a court order to obtain withheld documents. Certified divorce financial analysts offer assistance to people trying to unravel their marital finances. A CDFA could evaluate a proposed divorce settlement and offer insights into its future impact on an individual's financial situation.

Will bankruptcy make unpaid child support disappear?

No matter what community you're living in, you can find scores of custodial parents owed unpaid child support. Some of these parents sit idly by and allow the delinquent payments to remain unpaid. Other parents, in desperate need of this additional source of financial support, seek legal action to enforce the child support orders.

On the flip side, the nonpaying parent could respond with a few legal strategies of his or her own in order to avoid paying the money owed. In some cases, the parent might even threaten filing for bankruptcy.

How nesting can help children

Pennsylvania estranged couples may be familiar with the concept of shared custody. In this type of arrangement, children of divorced parents will spend part of the week with one parent before spending the rest with the other. However, a concept called nesting allows the child to stay in the same home with the parents rotating between the family home and an outside residence. This may be ideal for children because it allows them to feel a sense of permanency.

Children may also benefit because they will see their parents cooperating with each other. Finally, a child may benefit because he or she can get into a routine, which may be comforting in a time when everything else may feel uncertain. Nesting can be good for parents who may not have a lot of money to buy their own place.

Same-sex couple granted divorce after public battle

Pennsylvanians might be interested in a same-sex divorce and child custody case that was decided in Tennessee in early May. Many conservative lawmakers in the state attempted to intervene in the case on several occasions.

According to reports, the spouses were two women who had conceived a child by artificial insemination. The judge initially ruled that the woman who was not the biological parent of the child could not be granted any custody right because she was not the husband of her spouse. The judge later changed his mind, but the conservative lawmakers attempted to intervene with the help of the Family Action Council.

How child support is collected and disbursed

Pennsylvania parents may wonder how they might receive their child support payments once they have obtained a child support order. Every state has a system that is established for collecting and disbursing child support payments.

When a parent has a child support order under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, the state is mandated to collect the child support payment directly and then to disburse it. If the custodial parent receives Temporary Aid for Needy Families, then the state is allowed to reimburse itself and the federal government for the TANF amount up to the full child support payment. States must also collect and disburse child support for custodial parents who do not have Title IV-D cases but who do have child support orders that include income withholding orders.

Tips for a custody hearing

Pennsylvania parents who are going through a child custody dispute should avoid talking to the other parent or to friends about their strategy. These conversations should only happen between the parent and an attorney. Parents should also avoid the temptation to listen to loved ones who advise that they should push harder for more visitation time or support. This can turn a relatively amicable negotiation into an unpleasant one.

In court, a parent should avoid displaying anger and bitterness toward the other parent. This can make a negative impression on the judge, and if it appears that a parent is unwilling to be cooperative, it could cost them custody. A judge may react similarly to the insistence that a child needs one parent more than the other. Older children may be permitted to speak on their own behalf in court if they wish, but a parent should avoid speaking for them.

Can a postnuptial or midnuptial agreement save your marriage?

Marriages can be difficult, and require constant care and attention. Even so, issues can occur. Sometimes, one spouse may have engaged in a prolonged affair or a one-night stand. Other times, a substance abuse or gambling problem may lead to serious issues within the marriage. Many couples in this situation think that the only way forward, other than marriage counseling, is to divorce. They may be overlooking an increasingly common tool which can help save their marriage: the postnuptial or midnuptial agreement. These legal documents can help you and your spouse spell out expectation and consequences for future issues.

Postnuptial agreements are much like prenuptial agreements. A prenuptial agreement can outline expectations if there are already assets or children, requirements about a business interest, debt or even fertility practices. Some couples go so far as to create rules for social media sharing when it comes to the marriage. Your postnuptial agreement can do the same. If you and your spouse have encountered serious issues, but you still hope to make your marriage work, sitting down with an experienced family law attorney to create a postnuptial agreement could help you keep your marriage going.

Children wanting to reside with the noncustodial parent

Family courts in Pennsylvania are obligated to make child custody decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child. However, there are times when a child will express a desire to reside with a noncustodial parent.

There are many factors that may determine if a child's opinion will be considered. This can include the laws of the state in which the child resides, the degree of maturity the child exhibits and the willingness of the noncustodial parent to have physical custody. If there is no existing child custody order or agreement, a child can reside with the parent of his or her choice as long as both parents are in accord and the arrangement is within the confines of state law.

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