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Child & Spousal Support
When facing a divorce, it is always important to consider what options you may or may not have. There are many questions that arise regarding spousal support, child support, and contempt actions. These questions make the divorce process even more overwhelming and difficult to navigate. We, at Henry & Beaver, LLP., are there to help you understand the different support orders that may be issued and what to do if your spouse is in contempt of such an order.
What is spousal support?
In Pennsylvania, there are three types of financial support that may be awarded to a financially dependent spouse during or after a divorce:
- Spousal Support. This is not to be confused with alimony. Spousal support is paid to a spouse who is financially dependent upon the other spouse. This is to be paid after the couple has separated but before the divorce has been finalized.
- Alimony Pendente Lite (APL). This is financial support that is provided to the dependent spouse after the divorce complaint has been filled but not finalized. The purpose of APL payments is to allow both spouses the opportunity to hire the attorney of choice. Even if the dependent spouse is at fault for breaking up the marriage, APL payments may be owed.
- Alimony. After the divorce has been finalized and all financial issues resolved, the dependent spouse might be entitled to financial support from the other spouse.
If alimony is awarded, it comes in one of three forms. First, rehabilitative alimony, meaning the alimony payments will continue for a set amount of time allowing the dependent spouse to “rehabilitate” himself or herself. This can be through education or other avenues. Second, permanent alimony is where the payments will continue for the duration of the dependent spouses life. Lastly, there is reimbursement alimony where one spouse will receive a reimbursement for supporting the marriage for the benefit of the other spouse. This is common if one spouse supported the marriage while the other attended school.
Petitioning for alimony can be a complicated matter. Allowing an experienced Lebanon divorce attorney to review your case and explain your options will be beneficial to your case. The attorneys at Henry & Beaver, LLP understand the Pennsylvania divorce process and can help you file your divorce complaint. We understand that the divorce process is stressful and painful. We will help you navigate it with the least amount of stress possible.
What is Child Support?
Child support is defined as court-ordered payments, typically made by the noncustodial divorced parent, to support one’s minor child or children. In other words, one parent pays the other parent a certain amount of money each month to help provide for the children. Generally, the noncustodial parent pays child support as it is assumed that the custodial parent is already paying for the child’s needs directly.
How long do child support payments last?
In Pennsylvania, the parent charged with paying child support can expect to continue those payments until the child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school. There are exceptions depending on specific situations. If a child becomes emancipated, the payments will stop. On the other side, if a child suffers from a disability, the court may order that the payments continue after the child reaches the age of 18. There may also be an obligation to cover a child’s undergraduate or vocational training after high school, but this happens only in very rare cases.
How is child support calculated?
The courts use a fee schedule to determine child support obligations. There are set guidelines depending on the income of both parents and how many children are involved. While there are guidelines in place, a judge may deviate from the guidelines to increase or decrease the amount awarded based on:
- unusual needs or obligations
- other household income
- the child’s age
- the assets and liabilities of each parent
- medical expenses (not covered by insurance)
- standard of living
Can the amount of child support due be changed?
Child support is not a permanent allocation. Life situations change and that can affect the child support order. If a parent loses a job, moves, or has another child, the court may revise the child support order. The court will need to examine and review each parent’s financial status and the parenting time distribution to re-determine the amount of child support due.
The attorneys at Henry & Beaver, LLP understand how to petition for child support. We understand that divorce is a difficult time and worrying about financially supporting your children can be wearing. We are here to help you during your divorce and child support hearings. You will work with the best attorneys in our office to protect your rights.
What is contempt?
During or after a divorce, the judge will issue a court order defining the terms of the divorce, child support, and spousal support. The court order is legally binding and must be obeyed. Any violation of a court order during or after the divorce proceedings may constitute contempt. Common violations include non-payment of child support or alimony, disregarding court-approved visitation agreements, or disrespecting the court-ordered asset distribution.
In order to be held in contempt, the accuser must prove that the accused party knew that the order existed, had the ability to comply with the order but willingly violated the terms, and lacked cause for the violation. The evidence must be presented in order for the accused to be held in contempt.
What are the consequences of contempt?
If you are charged with contempt the consequences can vary from civil to criminal penalties. The penalties can include fines, compensatory custody time or a jail sentence.
Generally, the court will give the offending party a chance to make up for the violation. For example, if the offender refused to pay child support, the court will offer them the opportunity to pay back the missed child support payments. The court will likely end the case there, rather than seeking further punishment, as the goal of a contempt action is to bring the offender back into compliance with the court order.
It doesn’t matter if you are petitioning for child support, spousal support, or bringing a contempt action. The experienced attorneys at Henry & Beaver, LLP can help you understand what options you have and how to proceed with your case. We will review your case with you and help you understand the legal process that must take place. Call to schedule an appointment today. (717) 274-3644