Child support is money a parent pays to help provide food, clothing and other things for his or her child. Child support may include health care coverage, payment of uncovered medical bills and contributions to child care costs. The Department of Public Welfare, Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE), is responsible for supervising the Pennsylvania Child Support Program. Click Bureau of Child Support Enforcement for more information about BCSE. State and federal laws govern how child support orders are established and enforced. These laws also govern how child support is collected.
County Domestic Relations Sections
The child support process in Pennsylvania is done through the county Domestic Relations Section (DRS) of the Court of Common Pleas. The DRSs handle child support matters. DRSs help parents apply for child support services, establish paternity and support orders, and enforce support orders. A DRS worker will set up an appointment or help with an application. If you have domestic or family violence concerns, talk with the DRS about safety measures. The county DRS can also help if the noncustodial parent lives in another Pennsylvania county, a different state, or even another country. The noncustodial parent is the parent who does not live with the child and must pay child support. Feel free to ask questions of the DRS worker. You should keep a written record of contacts with the DRS and the documents received from the DRS.
PA CHILD SUPPORT INFORMATION
Applying for Child Support
When applying for child support, a complaint for child support must be filed. If the mother of the child is unmarried, the DRS will need to see proof of the child’s paternity. The DRS will schedule a support conference and send notices with the date and time to the parents. Child support owed to the family usually begins from the date the complaint is filed. Some counties charge a filing fee. If you cannot pay the filing fee, you may ask to be excused from paying the fee by filing a petition to proceed In Forma Pauperis.
Parent Locator Service
If you do not know where your child’s noncustodial parent lives, the DRS can refer your case to the Parent Locator service. This service uses federal, state and local resources to search for noncustodial parents. You must give the DRS the noncustodial parent’s name, date of birth and Social Security number, if you know it, and as much other information as possible for the search.
Click here to learn more about what the DRS does to locate noncustodial parents.
Click here for general information about cases that involve another state.
The Support Conference
A notice is sent to tell you when the support conference is scheduled and what information to bring. You should be prepared to talk about and provide proof of any special needs the child has, like a medical condition. You must attend the support conference. Depending on the county, if you believe you cannot attend in person, you may ask the DRS if you may attend by telephone. You will need to explain why you believe you cannot attend in person and may be required to get other information or a court order. This request must be made as soon as possible. County DRS staff can help with questions and explain Pennsylvania’s child support process.
Child Support Guidelines
The Pennsylvania Support Guidelines were developed with the idea that the child(ren) of separated, divorced or single parents should receive the same amount of parental support as if the parents were together. The State Supreme Court issues these guidelines for the DRS to use in calculating how much child support a parent should pay. The guidelines are based on the needs of the child and the ability of the parents to provide support. In most cases, the noncustodial parent is required to provide child support until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later, unless otherwise ordered by the court. Either parent may be ordered to provide health care coverage, if it is available at no cost or at a reasonable cost. The incomes and assets of both parents are considered when the court establishes a support order.
The Support Order
The support order is a court order that lists the details about child support payments. The support order tells how much and how often support payments must be made and other expenses the noncustodial parent must pay, like health care coverage. When the noncustodial parent has more than one child support order, the support paid is divided between each support case based on a variety of factors. A support officer or hearing officer will establish the support order based on the income and expense information provided by the parents and in accordance with the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines. The support officer will also consider the time each parent is responsible for the child. The support order can be appealed. In some counties that appeal is heard by an attorney hired by the DRS; the individual may appeal the attorney’s decision to a judge. In other counties, the appeal of the support order goes directly to the judge for decision.
Modifying the Child Support Order
Parents can petition the court for a review and modification of their child support order at any time that they feel there is a change in circumstance. Additionally, every three years, both parents will receive a notice that they can request a review of their child support order. Some factors that may change a child support order are:
- Income of either parent significantly increases or decreases.
- The child now has significant or continuing medical expenses.
- Daycare and/or medical insurance changes.
- The parents are now living together.
- The child receiving support is 18 years of age and is not attending high school.
- The child starts living with the noncustodial parent or someone other than the custodial parent/plaintiff.
- Any other significant and relevant change of circumstances that warrants a change in the amount of support paid.
Many counties charge a fee to accept a request for a modification. You may ask to be excused from paying the fee by filing a petition to proceed In Forma Pauperis. It is then up to the DRS worker to accept or decline the request.
Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement System (PACSES)
PACSES is the statewide computer system that is used by the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement Program. Case, personal and payment information are maintained in PACSES. DRS staff use PACSES to monitor support payments and enforce support orders. The Pennsylvania State Collection and Disbursement Unit (PA SCDU) receives and sends out child support payments. The PACSES Website provides more information and allows you to set up and account were you can check on or make payments on your support order and provides other useful information.
For more information go to : PA Child Support Program
For more information click Paying Child Support