Child Support Enforcement in Pennsylvania

By Lisa Vari on G+

Many of our clients come in seeking child support, and they ask us some version of the following question: "what can I do if they don't pay?" In Pennsylvania, child support can be paid directly (from the payor to the payee) or through the State Collections and Disbursement Unit, whereby the payor sends a check to the state, and the state then disburses funds.

If the money is not paid (goes into arrears) then there are various recourses by which you can collect money. The most common method of support enforcement is wage withholding. This means that a portion of the payor's paycheck is automatically deducted by the employer who will then forward the payment amount, plus an additional amount to reduce arrears, to the state collections agency. Additionally, state and federal income taxes can be seized by the state to offset support obligations, as well as lottery winnings in excess of $600. The state may also seize checking accounts and savings accounts to offset support contributions, as well as personal property such as stocks. Failure to pay may also be reported to credit agencies, with an adverse effect on the payor's credit score.

There are also other methods to enforce the support order. These can include suspending licenses and placing liens on real and personal property. Driving licenses may be suspended, professional licenses (such as a law license or medical license), and recreational licenses (such as a hunting or fishing license.) Liens placed on property prevent the property from being sold until the lien is removed. If the lien is not removed prior to sale, then the amount of money that is owed will be deducted from the proceeds of the sale, and passed onto the person who is owed support.

In extreme cases, imprisonment can result from failure to pay support. Pa.R.C.P. 1910.25 states that civil contempt of court can be filed whenever arrears accrue that cannot be paid, or that the support order was ignored for twenty (20) days or more. The Court will hold a hearing, and if they determine that the payor is in contempt, then they can be fined or imprisoned, or both. Even the threat of prison is usually enough to get the other party to pay up.

Failing to pay any court-ordered support is serious, as penalties for failure to pay can be severe. Contact our experienced attorneys today to talk about your unique support case!

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