There are some differences in procedure among the different counties even though the same law applies. One example is as it relates to support proceedings. Bucks County uses a two-tier system for handling support matters. The first step involves a conference before a court officer. At the conference level, both parties are required to bring proof of their income in the form of pay stubs, tax returns, W-2’s, etc. The officer presiding over the conference will use the income information provided to determine the net income of the parties and subsequently run a calculation based on the state-wide guidelines for support. If the parties are agreeable to the support number generated by the calculations, they can sign a final order for support in that amount. If either party is not agreeable, the next step is a hearing before a Judge.
Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties use a three-tier system in support cases. The first step is a conference as is the case in Bucks County. The second step is a Masters Hearing. The Master is not a Judge but an attorney specially trained in support matters. The Master will hold a hearing where they can hear testimony from both parties and review exhibits. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Master will make a report outlining recommendations for support. The parties receive a copy of the recommendations and are advised that if they do not file exceptions to the recommendations within the time frame allotted, the recommendation becomes a Final Order. If exceptions to the Master’s recommendation are filed, then the matter proceeds to the third-step which is a hearing before a Judge.