Pennsylvania has enacted tough laws to enforce child support obligations. Understanding how child support is paid, when it is due and how it is enforced is important for parents who are paying or receiving child support in Pennsylvania. A Pittsburgh child support lawyer at Pollock Begg can help parents ensure obligations are met responsibly and timely.
How does Pennsylvania enforce child support orders?
Pennsylvania employs a statewide computerized child support collection system known as Pennsylvania Automated Child Support Enforcement System. All child support orders are enforced by wage attachment unless the recipient agrees to waive the wage attachment. Even then, the payor must send child support to a central agency in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, not directly to the other parent. If child support arrears exist, PACSES may take enforcement action, such as increasing the wage attachment, intercepting the payor’s IRS refund, establishing a lien against the payor’s property or suspending the payor’s driver’s license, hunting or fishing license or professional license.
A child support obligation begins to run when the action is filed, even though the hearing may be held several weeks later. If the payor does not make any payments until the hearing, child support arrears may accrue for several weeks, triggering possible enforcement action. For this reason, the payor may wish to make voluntary payments before the hearing. Generally, the court will grant credit for an obligor’s voluntary payments if receipts are produced at the hearing.
Is a wage attachment required by law?
Most child support is paid by income withholding as ordered by the court and maintained in the PACSES system, which is the state’s child support computer. Wage attachments are required by federal and state law for all child support orders unless voluntarily waived by the parent who is receiving support. Even then, payments must be made through the PACSES system and not directly to the receiving parent. Pennsylvania maintains monthly support orders which charge the first of each month. When the employer receives a wage attachment order, the employer will deduct child support from the obligor’s pay and send it to the Pennsylvania State Collection and Disbursement Unit in Harrisburg. Support can also be taken from unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, Social Security, and retirement and pension benefits.
There are two ways to receive child support payments, the EPPICard debit MasterCard or direct deposit into a personal bank account. The receiving parent must contact Pennsylvania State Collection and Disbursement Unit to set up direct deposit into a checking or savings account. If a parent does not choose direct deposit, an EPPICard will be issued.
What are the consequences of paying late or missing payments?
Generally child support is considered to be on time if paid in full by the end of each month. If a parent does not pay child support on time, the domestic relations sections may increase the wage attachment or use one or more of the following enforcement measures.
- National and state new hire reporting: All employers must report information on new employees. This information is matched against child support records. The records are used to locate parents, establish child support orders and enforce existing orders.
- Federal and state tax refund offset programs: A parent’s federal and state income tax refunds can be taken if you owe overdue child support.
- Financial institution data match: The court can order financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions, to freeze financial assets to collect overdue support.
- Work requirements: A parent can be ordered by the court to work or join an employment program.
- Credit bureau reporting: If a parent is late in paying support, the parent’s name and the amount of back support will be reported to the major credit bureaus.
- License suspension: If a parent owes at least three months of support and a court has not ordered income withholding, the court may suspend, deny or refuse to renew a driver’s license, professional or occupational license or fishing and/or hunting license.
- Passport denial: The United States Department of State can deny the issuance or renewal of a passport to a parent who has child support arrears over $2,500.
- Lottery intercept: Lottery winnings of $2,500 or more can be taken if you owe overdue child support.
- Intercept of workers compensation and lump sum personal injury payment: The amount of overdue child support may be taken from a settlement or benefits.
- Fine or prison: Federal law makes it a crime if a parent owes more than $5,000 of child support for longer than a year, and the child support is owed for a child who lives in another state. Upon conviction, the court will order restitution of the unpaid support, fines and/or imprisonment for up to two years.
- Publication of name: The name of a delinquent parent may be published in the newspaper if the parent is at least 30 days late in paying child support.
- Liens on real estate: Overdue support automatically becomes a lien against all real estate that a parent owns in Pennsylvania. The property cannot be sold or transferred without paying off the lien.
Call our Pittsburgh law firm today to make an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys if you need help with child support enforcement measures.