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  • 19 Aug 2022 1:36 PM | Anonymous

    By Gerald Shoemaker, AAML Penn Fellow | Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller PC

    Effective January 1, 2022, the Supreme Court adopted new and revised child and spousal support rules.  This is nothing surprising or unusual since the Guidelines are reviewed every 4 years.  Here is a summary of the changes which may impact your support matter:

    1. Under the old Guidelines, there was an artificial reduction in the basic child support by 30% to account for assumed parenting time.  Under the new Guidelines, that fiction is removed; however, the economic data has been updated so the numbers generally go down in both the lower and higher income cases.  For the vast majority of cases, the child support numbers increase.  The spousal support calculations have not been modified or changed in any substantial manner. 

    2. The new Guidelines address earning capacity as follows:

    a. the Court shall not adjust a party’s income if that party took a lower-paying job to defeat a child or spousal support obligation or if the party left or changed employment voluntarily or for cause.

    b. the Court shall not impose an earning capacity greater than one full-time job to the parties in a support action.

    c. the Court shall consider child care expenses when imputing an earning capacity to a party.  It’s worth noting that it does not mandate that child care expenses be included in the calculation but instead requires the court to consider those expenses when assessing an earning capacity to a party. 

    d. the list of factors for a Court to consider is more extensive than in previous versions of the Guidelines.

    3. A person paying support still gets a downward adjustment if that person has custody of the child or children for 40% or more of the time (counting overnights).  There is no adjustment for less than 40% despite the elimination of the 30% adjustment noted above. 

    4. The prior Guidelines were not clear on whether a party paying support would be able to submit expenses to the other party for reimbursement, such as expenses for camp, unreimbursed medical expenses, private school, and extra-curricular activities.  The new Rules are clear that those expenses are allocated between parties such that the party paying support is permitted to seek reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses. 

    In a vast majority of cases, the child support paid will increase.  The only times when you will see decreases are when the parties have lower wages or when the parties have substantial income.  Regardless of your income level, you should contact your attorney to determine whether an adjustment in your child support is appropriate.  If you do not have an attorney, you may contact our office and we can assist you in determining the appropriate child support amount to be paid.   

  • 19 Aug 2022 1:27 PM | Anonymous

    By Gerald Shoemaker, AAML Penn Fellow | Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller PC

    1. If I get 50/50 or equally shared physical custody, I do not have to pay child support.  This is not true.  Even if parents have a 50/50 custody arrangement, support is still owed from the parent who makes more.  There is an adjustment in how much support will be paid by that parent but support, nonetheless, is due. 

    2. I am remarried and my new spouse’s income is utilized when calculating a child support obligation.  Your new spouse has no obligation to support your children.  As a result, your spouse’s income is not a data point used when calculating a support obligation.  The court, however, can deviate once it arrives at the support number based upon other household income.  Deviations for this reason are rare.

    3. Since I am the one receiving child support, I have to pay all the expenses for the kids.  This is not accurate.  The Support Guidelines specifically include certain extra expenses which are above and beyond the base child support payment.  These expenses include work-related childcare expenses, summer camps, extra-curricular activities, unreimbursed medical expenses and private school expenses.  The court has authority to award these in addition to the base child support payment, but you should check with your attorney to determine if it is likely the court would award these to you as they are not guaranteed.   

    4. Nothing will happen to me if I do not pay my support.  To the contrary, many things may and likely will happen to you.  For example, the court can deny you a license (drivers’, hunting or other) and can seize your tax refund.  In addition, the court can take action to take money directly from your bank account to pay your child support.  In egregious circumstances, the court will incarcerate a person who is not paying support. 

    5. I file for child support at any time and the court will award it to me back to the date when the child was born or when me and my partner separated.  The court is only permitted to grant support from the time you actually file a request for support through domestic relations.  It will not grant support to someone for a period of time prior to that official filing.  For that reason, it is important to file when you know the other party is not going to pay. 

    6. I am currently paying child support, my income has gone up but I do not have to let anyone know.  If you are paying support through the court (as opposed to paying directly to the other parent), you are obligated to let the court and the other parent know of any changes that would impact the calculation of support.  This would include changes in income as well as other changes, such as custody, or an increase or decrease of other expenses which are paid in addition to the base support amount.  If you fail to do so, the court can retroactively change the order to the time when your income increased (or other change occurred that was not reported).  In addition, the court has the ability to award counsel fees to the other party for having to seek the retroactive change in support for which disclosure was not provided. 

    7. I do not think I am the father of the child but I will worry about that after we finish with the determination of support.  Once you agree to a support order, you are conclusively the father.  The time to challenge paternity is at the outset of the filing of support.  If you fail to do so and a final support order is entered against you, you will be required to pay child support until the child is 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later in time. 

    8. If I am not seeing my child, I do not have to pay child support.  This is a fallacy.  Many people assume if the other parent is withholding custody, then the parent not seeing the child can withhold child support, but this is inaccurate.  Child support and child custody are two separate issues and the withholding of custody does not eliminate a party’s obligation to pay support. 

  • 27 Jul 2022 1:39 PM | Anonymous

    The Pennsylvania Bar Association Family Law Section created this video as a resource to help parents who are separated or divorced learn how to improve their co-parenting relationships with positive communication and behavior.

    The video shows parents how strong, positive communication with their co-parent reduces stress and benefits their children. The video, created by Family Law Section members, features realistic vignettes showing parents how to avoid common sources of conflict by using the BIFF Response® Method, courtesy of the High Conflict Institute in San Diego, California.

    BIFF is an acronym for communication that stands for:

    • Brief

    • Informative

    • Friendly

    • Firm

    The video also features insightful commentary from experienced judges and mental health practitioners from across the state.

    This project was the brainchild of AAML Penn Fellow, and Immediate Past Chair of the PBA Family Law Section, Helen Casale. AAML Penn President-Elect, Kerri Lee Cappella, was also highly involved in the creation of this video.  

  • 5 May 2022 10:28 AM | Anonymous

    Brian C. Vertz, Pittsburgh child custody lawyer and a partner at Pollock Begg with experience handling international custody disputes, said a case set to go before the U.S. Supreme Court could change the way courts deal with cross-border custody disagreements involving domestic violence.

    In December, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an international family law case between an Italian father and an American mother who fled Italy with her child to escape spousal abuse, triggering the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Golan v. Saada case is only the fifth international child abduction case to come before the Court since 1988.

    The Justices will now decide whether lower courts may consider protective measures to mitigate grave risk of harm to allow a child to be returned to its habitual residence. In doing so, the Supreme Court must weigh the goal of deterring international child abduction against the goal of protecting individuals from domestic violence.

    Vertz filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers to provide insight into the complexities of international custody cases and the limitations of the Hague Convention, a treaty between signatory nations, whose sole purpose is to deter parents from wrongfully removing children from their habitual residence.

    Article 13(b) of the treaty carves out a narrow exception for returning children to their country of habitual residence where a child’s well-being is seriously endangered. But, the Hague Convention lacks provisions for judging a child’s best interests, awarding custody or preventing further abuse. Whether a child’s return is granted or denied in a Hague proceeding, further custody proceedings are required to protect an at-risk child.

    Now the Supreme Court must decide whether the law permits courts to consider risk mitigation measures in international child abduction cases, at what stage of the legal process these undertakings may be proposed, who bears the burden of proof and whether the undertakings must be enforceable.

    In addition to the AAML amicus brief, Vertz also outlined the details of Golan v. Saada in a recent analysis piece on Law.com

    Read the AAML’s amicus brief on Golan v. Saada. (PDF)

    Read Brian’s piece on the Law.com website.

    As a partner at Pollock Begg since 2001, Pittsburgh child custody lawyer Vertz is a powerful ally for clients facing child support and custody litigation, divorce, settlements and family law appeals up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. A tenacious negotiator, Vertz is skilled in collaborative law, arbitration, and mediation, including cross-border international and Hague Convention cases. Read his online profile to learn more.

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