Childcare is the duty of both parents of the child. This applies whether they are married or not. The failure of one parent to take part in the responsibility of raising the child may lead to a considerable reduction in the quality of life of the child. To ensure that parents step up to their responsibility of childcare, there are child support laws and enforcement actions.
Child Support Process
The Child Support Program (CSP) in Pennsylvania is provided by the Department of Human Services (DHS). Parents that want to apply for child support need to create an online profile on the DHS website. This can be done at https://www.humanservices.state.pa.us/csws/csws_controller.aspx?PageId=csws%2fonline_questionnaire.ascx&l=E. The application portal has sections for the parents to fill in information about their demographic (race), employment status and details, marital status, etc. Also required in the application is basic information about both parents like full name, residential and mailing addresses, Social Security Number, phone number, etc.
The CSP then tries to locate the noncustodial parent and serve a written notice of the case being brought up. It is very important that the information provided in the application process is as accurate as possible. This is because it can help in locating the other parent early and the case cannot progress until that parent has been located. To facilitate the location of the noncustodial parent, the Domestic Relations Section (DRS) will submit the noncustodial parent’s name, and other identifying information to the State Parent Locate System, and the Federal Parent Locate System. The information is cross-checked against several databases until the parent is found.
After the parent has been found, the next step is to establish the paternity of the child. If the mother was married when the child was born, her husband is taken as the child’s father. However, special procedures are required for parents who were not married. For parents who both agree on the child’s paternity, they can fill an Acknowledgement Of Paternity (AOP) form. This form eliminates the need to go to court to establish the child’s paternity. The form can be filled by a minor who is the father, without parental consent. When the AOP is filled and signed, the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate. A man who believes he is the child’s father can also fill an AOP form alone and submit it as a claim of paternity. However, this does not give the father any rights to the child. If the alleged father does not believe he is the child’s father, the mother can request genetic testing from the Domestic Relations Section to establish the paternity of the child. Genetic tests involve the collection of swab samples from the child and alleged father. The samples are subjected to a DNA test to determine if the man is the child’s biological father. If the results come back positive, a court order is entered, naming the man as the child’s father.
After paternity has been established, the child support case can move forward for a hearing to determine the child support obligations that the noncustodial parent is to pay.
For further details on the child support process, visit https://www.humanservices.state.pa.us/csws/csws_controller.aspx?qQ1CTaXSPXTrPFTBnF8Qj1r1OZnFudOHdoLzap668sA-FphXAArCtOnmfVL7KpZ49ZuJnqv9QDJj4wu2@yvdDLnDrsVSXJA4#TOCFLink.
How Do You Receive Child Support
Parents who receive child support in Pennsylvania have three options available for them to get their payments.
The first option is the Pennsylvania EPPICard. This is a MasterCard debit card that is automatically issued to parents who do not specify an alternative method of receiving their funds. This card does not require the parent to have an existing bank account. Payments are loaded onto the card once they become available from the noncustodial parent. The EPPICard can be used to make payments, withdrawals, and cashback services. Using the card at MasterCard locations would not incur a charge, however, using the card at other ATMs may have a fee attached. For more information regarding the EPPICard, visit http://www.eppicard.com/.
The next option is the use of direct deposit. This allows parents to receive their child support payments directly into their bank accounts. Direct deposit is fast and safe as it is electronically processed. For parents to register for direct deposit, they must have a savings or checking account and fill a Direct Deposit Authorization Form. A copy of the form can be gotten from https://www.humanservices.state.pa.us/CSWS/csws/forms/Plaintiff_EFT_Form.pdf.
The final option is the use of paper checks. The checks are mailed to the address of the custodial parent within 48 hours of being received from the noncustodial parent. This is an unsafe option as the checks can be stolen by anyone who has access to the physical mailbox of the parent.
Maximum Amount Receivable as Child Support
The determination of child support obligation in Pennsylvania is done using the Pennsylvania Support Guideline. This guideline tries to calculate the support payments so that the amount each payment spends on the child would be similar to what would have been spent if they were together as a family unit. For the calculations, the guideline considers the income of the parents, the age and number of children, the costs of the child’s healthcare and daycare, etc.
Parents can also request a modification of the support payment if there is a change in income levels, change in custody arrangement, an increase in childcare costs, etc. For further details visit https://www.humanservices.state.pa.us/csws/csws_controller.aspx?qQ1CTaXSPXTrPFTBnF8Qj1r1OZnFudOHdoLzap668sA-FphXAArCtOnmfVL7KpZ49ZuJnqv9QDJj4wu2@yvdDLnDrsVSXJA4#TOCBLink.
Enforcement of Child Support
Child support cases vary, as do the parents who are required to pay child support. Not all parents agree to make prompt and complete child support payments. In some cases, the noncustodial parents default completely on the payments. For this reason, several actions can be taken to enforce the payment of child support. These include:
- Passport denial
- Seizure of bank accounts
- Suspension of driver’s, recreational and professional licenses
- Reporting to credit bureaus
- Interception of lottery winnings
- Interception of state and federal tax refunds
- Withholding of income and compensation for injury
- Jail term of up to 6 months in serious cases.
More details on the enforcement of child support orders can be found at https://www.humanservices.state.pa.us/csws/csws_controller.aspx?qQ1CTaXSPXTrPFTBnF8Qj1r1OZnFudOHdoLzap668sA-FphXAArCtOnmfVL7KpZ49ZuJnqv9QDJj4wu2@yvdDLnDrsVSXJA4#TOCELink.