What to Expect in Your First Spousal or Child Support Hearing

The experienced Pennsylvania family attorneys at Dodaro, Matta, & Cambest, P.C. can guide you through spousal support and child support issues.

Have you been ordered to appear at a hearing for spousal support or child support in Washington or Allegheny County, Pennsylvania? If so, you probably have several questions. This post by the Pittsburgh family attorneys at Dodaro, Matta, & Cambest, P.C. will provide a brief summary of what you can expect to happen.

In Washington and Allegheny Counties, spousal support and child support hearings are held in front of a Domestic Relations officer. A Domestic Relations officer is not a judge, but is instead a civil servant that acts on behalf of the court. A Domestic Relations officer can enter orders for support. At your first hearing, you can expect to discuss the following:

(1) Spousal and/or Child Support – Does your hearing deal with spousal support? Child support? Both? What are spousal support and child support? Spousal support is the amount of money one spouse pays to support the other spouse during separation but prior to the filing of a divorce. Child support is the amount of money one parent pays to another parent to support a child. Spousal and child support amounts are determined according to guidelines adopted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The amount to be paid depends on the income of the parties and is calculated by using set mathematical formulas. There are instances, however, when the Domestic Relations officer can deviate from the guidelines.

(2) Allocated vs. Unallocated Support – If your hearing includes spousal AND child support issues, then you will discuss whether the support award will be allocated or unallocated. Historically, this involved tax considerations affecting what amount the party paying support (“payor”) could deduct on income taxes. Federal tax laws changed January 1, 2019 preventing the deduction from taking place in certain instances.

(3) Health Insurance – Hearings almost always include a discussion about health insurance coverage. It is possible that the party paying support will be required to provide insurance coverage for their spouse and child. This can be affected by the employment situation of the parties and whether other insurance is available.

(4) Unreimbursed Medical Expenses – Unreimbursed medical expenses are medical expenses that are not covered by insurance (for example: orthodontics). This is allocated based upon the income of the parties and other circumstances. The party receiving the support payment is typically required to pay the first $250 per year.

(5) Income – You can expect to disclose a significant amount of financial information at your support hearing. The order scheduling the hearing will list the information needed. You typically need to arrive with your last two tax returns, six months of pay stubs, and other information.

(6) Custody Issues – Custody can affect the amount of child support being paid. The court will consider the amount of over night visits each parent has in setting the child support amount.

(7) Payment and Wage Attachment – The Domestic Relations officer will discuss the method of payment to be made. In Pennsylvania, the State contacts the employer of the paying party and attaches wages. This means that support payments are directly withdrawn from the paying party’s paycheck every pay cycle. If the paying party is not employed, or is self-employed, then payments will still be made through the State.

This list isn’t exhaustive. The list also does not consider what to do if you need to change an existing support order. There are a number of other issues that can arise in a spousal support or child support hearing in Allegheny County and Washington County. The best thing you can do is be prepared. The best way to be prepared is to consult with an experienced Pennsylvania divorce attorney before your hearing. If you are facing a spousal support or child support hearing in Allegheny County or Washington County, Pennsylvania, contact the law firm of Dodaro, Matta, & Cambest, P.C. today at 412-243-1600 to schedule a consultation.

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