Divorce, alimony, child support, and lump sums — many people struggle through the details and consequences of these systems as they pursue a legal separation or divorce. 

In many marriages, one spouse earns more than the other. The higher-earning spouse may have relied on the other spouse to hold a less time-consuming and lower-paying job and do more of the household tasks. Similarly, one spouse may have given up career growth to be a stay-at-home parent and save the family money on childcare costs. 

When these couples divorce, the higher-earning spouse is often responsible for some form of spousal support. This support can help the other party maintain their living standard while pursuing education and career growth.  

The amount and timeline of alimony payments depend on several factors, including the length of the marriage. In some cases, higher-earning spouses can be responsible for paying permanent alimony to their spouses. 

Child support is intended to financially support a child, not the adult. There are several types of alimony and child support payment plans. Whether you should advocate for lump-sum or monthly payments in your court case depends on specific considerations. 

Benefits of a Lump-Sum Payment 

Guaranteed Money 

A lump-sum payment could be a wise choice if your ex-spouse is unstable or has a history of money trouble. It can eliminate the monthly stress of not knowing if your ex-spouse will make the required payment.  

Protects You Against Your Spouse’s Future Financial Troubles 

With uncertain financial times, there is no guarantee your ex-spouse will be able to continue making the agreed-upon monthly payments. Their business may go under, or they may make bad investments. A lump-sum payment ensures you will not be affected even if your ex comes into major financial trouble. 

Support Your Future 

Perhaps you have a major financial goal. Maybe you want to open your own business, buy a house, or go back to school. A lump-sum settlement can help you make that investment stress-free without waiting to receive alimony payments. 

Benefits of Monthly Payments 

Most of the benefits of lump sums are best suited to couples negotiating alimony. Many attorneys do not recommend a lump-sum payment for child support payments and instead recommend monthly payments. 

Best Interest of a Child 

Child support is designed to support a child’s basic life necessities, like food, housing, and education. Because these necessities remain constant throughout a child’s life, monthly payments tend to make the most sense to support a child’s best interests. 

If you have concerns about your ex-spouse’s ability to commit to monthly child support payments, an attorney can help discuss your options and rights. 

Contact an Experienced Attorney 

Divorce cases are challenging enough emotionally. Adding in the stress of negotiating spousal support and child support payments can feel very overwhelming for many people. An experienced legal team, like the lawyers at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., can help you answer any questions you have about divorce, alimony, child support, and lump sums.

You love your child and want the best for them. Your marriage may end, but you are still a parent. You need to navigate the divorce process so you start a new life in the best possible position and ensure that your child’s needs are met, too. 

You Are Not Alone 

Parents with special needs children are more likely to get divorced than other married couples, according to Psychology Today. It is estimated that: 

  • 20% of US homes have a child with a disability, special health care needs, or a chronic illness  
  • The divorce rate of married parents with a child with disabilities might reach 87% 
  • The divorce rate for those with a child who has autism is about 80% 

The challenges and disagreements that can arise when parenting a special needs child may be the reason for a divorce or just one of many that pushed the relationship over the edge. 

Things to Think About 

When you are trying to plan your post-marriage life, think about: 

  • Your child’s needs, whether they are functional, medical, psychological, educational, or social 
  • What will meeting those needs cost in time, effort, and money 
  • Who will absorb those costs, and how 

You may need the help of a life care specialist to come up with answers. If you and your spouse disagree about your child’s needs and care, an outside third party without a personal bias may help bring the two of you together on these issues. 

Child Custody 

Whether your child has special needs or not, decisions about which parent should have what kind of custody should be guided by your child’s best interests. The judge in your case is bound by law to use that standard. If the two of you agree on custody issues, the judge will ensure your plan meets that standard. If you cannot agree and the matter is litigated, that is how the judge will make a decision. 

What is your situation? 

  • With whom will the child live? 
  • How much time will they have with each parent? 
  • How stable will each parent’s household be? 
  • Are both parents up to the task of caring for the child equally?  
  • Is one in a better position to provide care most of the time? 
  • If one parent is unwilling or unable to handle the child’s needs, is the other equipped to be the exclusive caregiver? 
  • How involved will the extended families of each parent be in helping with your child? Will one be alone, while the other will benefit from family members playing active, supporting roles? 

If you have another child without special needs, what custody arrangement is best for them? 

Child Support 

The state’s child support formula does not account for the additional financial burdens of parenting a child with special needs, including specialized care, equipment, enhanced nutrition, or accessible housing. But a judge may order a non-custodial parent to pay more than the guideline indicates if the circumstances call for it. 

Typically, the obligation to pay child support ends when the child reaches the age of majority (18) or graduates from college. But if a child with special needs requires caregiving for an extended period, if not the foreseeable future, that may be extended.  

Depending on the extent of a child’s disabilities, they may qualify for government benefits (including paying for custodial and medical care), help in finding employment, and independent living. The parents must do their best to get as much help as possible for as long as possible.  

The parent receiving child support should not expect the payor to pick up the tab for services that may be free or at a reduced cost, thanks to government or charitable programs. 

Get the Help You Need from an Attorney You Can Trust   

If you are thinking about getting divorced or have decided it is the next step, call us at (215) 608-1867. We can discuss your situation over the phone, via a teleconference, or meet in our Langhorne or Doylestown office.   

The state’s child support laws create a system in which parents are obligated to support their own children. This requirement includes daily living expenses, including healthcare and daycare.   

Usually, one parent is the primary caregiver, and the other pays to help with the child’s needs. The money is not for the custodial parent’s benefit. It is to be spent on the child.  

Child support is also an issue during divorce proceedings when the spouses have a child. It could be one of many issues that must be resolved before the divorce is final. If the parents are living apart, a child support agreement or order can go into effect while the parents are still married. 

How Do I Start the Process? 

Child support can be arranged in several ways. Parents can agree on support and ask a judge to approve the agreement through a support order in a divorce or other family law proceeding. Most cases start when a parent completes an Application for Child Support and submits it to their local Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) office. If your case involves other circumstances, we can help you work with BCSE to:   

  • Find a noncustodial parent 
  • Establish paternity if the child is born outside of marriage 
  • Establish support obligations 
  • Collect and distribute support 
  • Enforce support obligations 

What are Bucks County Child Support Payments Based On? 

Support is based on the reasonable: 

  • Needs of the child  
  • The ability of the non-custodial parent to pay 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court creates support guidelines and should be the basis of any agreement. Judges also use them to develop a figure if no deal is reached. Guidelines are driven by the parents’ monthly income. Both parents may be ordered to pay support for a child not in their care. 

The most essential factors in the guideline include: 

  • The parents’ incomes 
  • Daycare costs 
  • Health insurance expenses 
  • The number of minor children of each parent 
  • Social Security benefits a child may receive 
  • The child’s living arrangements 

A judge will review the support amount at least every four years. After an order has been signed, if changed circumstances justify it, a parent can ask that the amount be increased or decreased. 

How Can Support Be Spent? 

Support can pay for: 

  • Food 
  • Clothing 
  • Shelter 
  • Medical insurance 
  • Medical expenses 
  • Education expenses 
  • Child care 
  • Visitation travel costs 
  • Extracurricular activities 

Child support obligations continue until the child is 18 or graduates high school. Child support payments may continue if they have special needs or continue their education. 

How are Child Support Orders Enforced? 

When a non-custodial parent does not pay the full support amount on time, they violate a court order and may face serious consequences. The receiving parent could file a court action to enforce the order, with or without an attorney’s help.  It is not wise to ignore a support order.  

A parent could also request help from BCSE, which can enforce child support orders by pursuing unpaid amounts on your child’s behalf. Typically, there is a small fee to start a case. BCSE has several enforcement tools at its disposal.  

Which approach is right for you depends on your circumstances. If child support is one of several matters we help you with, it makes sense for us to handle this issue, too. If you do not have money to spend on an attorney, BCSE is a good choice. 

We Can Help You Achieve Your Child Support Goals  

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., lawyers believe that, unless there is an agreement, parents should not receive less child support or pay more than the law requires. Whether you pay or receive child support, if you have questions about it or need legal representation, book a 15-minute consultation by filling out our online form.  

Depending on the circumstances of your job loss, you may be able to modify the child support order. Unless you are desperate, do not lower your payments without at least the other parent’s agreement until you get court approval. 

What is Child Support? 

Parents must financially support their children until they are 18 or are self-supporting. Generally, the parent with more custodial time receives child support payments from the noncustodial parent. The money must be spent for the child’s benefit.  

If the parents cannot agree on how much should be paid, a judge will decide the issue. A state formula for payments considers the parents’ incomes, the number of children involved, and other factors.  

Can My Payments Be Lowered If I Lose My Job? 

Payments can change if a parent’s income increases or decreases. You can ask a judge to modify your child custody order if it is impossible for you to continue making the planned payments. The judge will need evidence about the facts of your job loss. You have the burden of proving through admissible evidence that a material and substantial change of circumstances occurred since the court order was signed. If a parent’s income was involuntarily reduced and it is not part of a scheme to avoid their child support obligation, a court will consider reducing the support obligation.  

Job loss might not be enough to justify a modification. Child support can be collected from many sources, including unemployment benefits and severance pay. If you genuinely cannot make your payments, pay what you can and explain the situation to the other parent. Acting in good faith may help your attempt to change the child support order. 

Can the Court Expect Me to Pay Child Support If My Income is Cut? 

If the judge finds your evidence does not support your request, or there is evidence you got yourself fired to avoid support payments, you may be stuck making the same payments even though you are not working. The court may “impute” income and maintain your obligations. 

Courts, generally, will not do this if the job loss is not your fault. But, if the court finds you are intentionally underemployed or unemployed to avoid paying support, the judge can impute additional earning capacity when calculating child support payments. It would be what you should earn if you had a full-time position in your field, given your experience level. 

We Can Help You Achieve Your Goals 

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., attorneys believe that, unless the parties agree, no one should receive less child support or be made to pay more support than the law requires. One of our lawyers may obtain a modification of your support payments efficiently and for an affordable fee.  

Whether you are paying or receiving child support payments, if you have questions about modifying a court order or need legal representation, book a 15-minute consultation by filling out our online form

Nearly all family law matters are resolved through agreements, including child support payments. Parents could create a DIY child support agreement. But it is not a good idea if you are the one receiving the payments because you are better protected when the court is involved. 

What is Child Support?  

Child support is a parent’s periodic payment for their child’s financial benefit. This can be done with a private agreement or a court order. Child support payments apply to situations in which the parents never married, the parents are married but living apart, or the parents are divorced. A parent receives the payments, but they are to benefit a child.    

How is the Amount Determined?  

It is based on guidelines established by the state’s Supreme Court. The parents’ incomes are calculated and used in a formula that considers many things, including the number of children. The custodial parent pays child support to help pay for the care of the child. The guidelines are just a starting point, and what is paid could vary significantly depending on the circumstances. 

The parents split expenses based on their incomes and ability to pay. How much is paid is also impacted by whether custody is shared. The amount paid in child support is not always clear-cut because incomes may vary depending on how a parent is paid (hourly, salary, sales commission, bonuses, or a combination). Child support generally continues until a child is 18, but that may be extended depending on the situation. 

Why Not Just Work Out a Child Support Agreement? 

There is not much more work left if an agreement has been reached and reviewed by each party’s attorney. If you are a custodial parent, do not negotiate an agreement without legal help. Your child may be entitled to more support than you realize. 

You could look at court approval as a formality, but that does not make it a waste of time. It adds certainty and protection to the parent receiving the support. There is no guarantee that payments will never stop, come late, or be less than they should be. Court involvement brings a system of enforcement that can benefit your child. 

A child support order protects you in a situation in which the other party does not live up to the agreement. In most orders, when the other parent is a W-2 employee, child support obligations will be attached to their earnings. As long as they are paid, child support will be paid as well. If an order is in place and payments are made directly from one parent to the other, if the payments stop, you can file for enforcement of the child support payments.  

Whether you pay or receive it, if you have questions about child support or need legal representation, call Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., at (866) 311-4783 or complete our online contact form today.   

Child support payments do not just consider what the paying parent earns but what they should earn to a certain degree. If there is evidence that a parent lowered or ended their income to avoid child support payments, a judge can decide their financial obligations based on what they could reasonably be expected to earn. 

What is Child Support? 

In Pennsylvania, parents must financially support their children until they turn 18 or become self-supporting. The parent with more custodial time is generally entitled to receive child support payments from the noncustodial parent. 

If parents can not agree on a support amount, a judge will do it for them. It will depend on the parents’ incomes and the number of children involved. Income can include: 

  • Social Security payments 
  • Commissions 
  • Bonuses 
  • Pension payments 
  • Retirement savings income 
  • Unemployment compensation 
  • Veteran’s benefits 
  • Rent from properties 

Determining child support obligations can be complicated. Incomes can fluctuate when someone is self-employed, owns a business, or when their earnings are impacted by bonuses or commissions (or lack of them).  

When Does Imputing Income Become Necessary? 

Not all of these paying parents want to pay support or pay as much as they are ordered to pay. They may illegally reduce their income and claim they can not afford to make payments. They may: 

  • Work “under the table” for cash and not declare this income 
  • Quit their job 
  • Take a demotion 
  • Work fewer hours 

When there is credible evidence the parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed to reduce their support responsibilities, not because of a legitimate issue (disability, layoff, economic downturn), a judge may impute (or attribute) income to them so the child gets adequate support. 

How Does a Judge Decide What a Parent Should Earn? 

Under Pennsylvania law, the judge may impute what their full-time income should be within limits. It can not be more than what would be earned in one full-time job. It also must be based on the parent’s circumstances, including whether they have used substantial good faith efforts to find employment and: 

  • Childcare responsibilities and expenses 
  • Assets 
  • Past employment and earnings 
  • Job skills 
  • Educational level 
  • Literacy 
  • Age 
  • Health (physical and psychological) 
  • Criminal record and other employment barriers 
  • Past efforts seeking work 
  • Local job market 
  • Local prevailing wages 
  • Other relevant factors 

Given all the variables involved, each case is unique. Remember, if you hear of an outcome in another case, it may have no relevance to your situation. 

If you have questions about child support or whether a parent should pay more or less, call Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., at (215) 752-6200. We represent parties on both sides of this issue and can provide critical legal representation to help you meet your goals. 

No matter which side of a child support dispute you are on, it is best you follow the law, obey the child support order, and act in good faith. A parent may genuinely be unable to pay for support, or their failure can be a ploy to extract a concession from the other parent.  

What is Child Support? 

Child support is an ongoing, periodic payment by a parent for the financial benefit of a child. This can be done through a private agreement or a court order. Child support arrangements can be between parents who never married or who divorced. Although payments go to a parent, they are to benefit a child.   

How is the Amount Determined? 

The amount of child support in a court order is based on statewide guidelines established by the state’s Supreme Court. Both parents’ incomes are calculated, and the number of children (among other factors) is considered. The guidelines are meant to ensure that similarly situated parties are treated similarly. Once the amount of support is identified, the amount is divided between the parents based on their incomes and the custody schedule.  

Can the Amount Change? 

A change in the income of either party or a change in the custody schedule can affect the amount. If you are having problems making payments, contact our office. We can try to modify the existing court order by successfully showing a judge that a material and substantial change in circumstances makes it impossible for you to continue making the payments.  

This is usually a difficult hurdle to overcome, but it can be done. It can include such circumstances as the payor suffering from a chronic illness or disability impacting their earnings, the birth of another child, or the other parent increasing their income. What is not relevant is that the other parent is not living up to custody or visitation arrangements. Two wrongs do not make a right when paying child support. 

If you are paying support and know that you will be facing financial problems or they are already impacting you, it is best to discuss this with the other parent and try to reach a resolution. Suddenly stopping or cutting your payment will not improve the situation. 

What Efforts Can Be Used to Compel Payment? 

If you are the one not getting a full or any payment, we can engage with the other parent or their attorney to try to resolve the problem. They may be acting in good faith. This may be a temporary problem or the start of a long-term issue. Though you may be frustrated and angry, this is not a valid reason to ignore your visitation or custody obligations to try to punish the other parent. 

If a motion to modify support payment fails or no motion is filed, the court will assist in monitoring compliance with the order. It should consider petitions for contempt and enforcement for lack of compliance. Depending on the circumstances and whether this is a recurring problem, the non-paying parent faces measures consistent with state and federal laws, including: 

  • The amount can be withheld from paychecks, worker’s compensation, and unemployment benefit payments. 
  • Bank accounts can be seized.
  • The non-custodial parent’s driver’s, professional, or recreational licenses can be suspended, not renewed, or denied. 
  • Lottery winnings and federal tax refunds can be withheld. 
  • The application for a passport can be denied. 
  • Consumer credit bureaus could be notified, potentially affecting their credit rating, impacting their ability to get loans, or increasing their interest rates. 
  • Liens can be put on property.
  • Payment of the other parent’s court costs can be ordered.
  • They can face jail time, fines, or probation.  

To achieve these outcomes, you will probably need the services of an attorney experienced in handling child support disputes. If you have questions about child support or want to schedule a free consultation, call Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C. at (215) 752-6200 today. 

A divorce ends a marriage, but if the spouses are parents, divorce does not end their relationship. If you are divorcing in Pennsylvania or if you are involved in a dispute over child support after your divorce, you must be advised and represented by a Pennsylvania child support attorney.

After a divorce in Pennsylvania, will a parent be obligated to pay for a child’s college tuition? What are a Pennsylvania parent’s rights and obligations when it comes to child support? What do divorced and divorcing parents need to know about the child support laws in this state?

If you’ll keep reading this brief discussion of a divorced parent’s child support obligations in Pennsylvania, these questions will be answered, and you will also learn how a Pennsylvania family law attorney will provide the legal help you may need in a child support dispute.

How Does Pennsylvania Law Address Child Support?

All Pennsylvania parents are legally obligated to provide financial support for their children. When a divorce is finalized, a child support order will be issued by the court requiring one parent to make monthly payments to the other parent to share the expenses of child-raising.

The parent who has the most time with the child (the “custodial parent”) usually receives child support payments from the other (“noncustodial”) parent. Pennsylvania law presumes that a custodial parent already supports the child financially.

The amount of child support ordered by the court is based on the state’s child support guidelines, which take into account the number of children and the income of each parent. Judges have some flexibility to account for a child’s needs, a parent’s ability to pay, and the custody arrangement.

When May Judges Diverge From the Child Support Guidelines?

On the basis of the factors listed below, a Pennsylvania judge may increase or decrease the amount of child support indicated by the state’s child support guidelines:

  1.  a parent’s or child’s unusual needs or unusual obligations
  2.  a parents’ other child support obligations
  3.  the child’s age
  4.  the combined assets and liabilities of the parents
  5.  medical costs not covered by health insurance
  6.  the family’s standard of living
  7.  most importantly, the child’s best interests

In any matter involving a child that comes before a Pennsylvania court, the child’s best interests will always be the court’s highest priority.

For How Long Are Child Support Payments Required?

In most cases, a noncustodial parent in Pennsylvania must make child support payments until a child reaches the age of 18. If the child is physically or emotionally challenged or disabled, the court may order child support payments to continue beyond the child’s 18th birthday.

Generally speaking, the expenses of a child’s education are addressed in the divorce process along with the other child support issues.

While several states require some divorced parents to pay for their children’s college expenses, Pennsylvania does not require college expense payments or reimbursement for those payments from a parent.

Should You Negotiate College Costs With the Other Parent?

Nevertheless, to keep a dispute over child support payments from emerging in the future, you may choose to negotiate college tuition costs during the divorce process. Take into account scholarship opportunities and other tuition payment options, and adhere to your lawyer’s advice.

A modification of the child support order may be requested at any time, and is sometimes necessary, but you will save time and money by negotiating with the other parent and reaching agreements, if possible, during the divorce process. Here are several possible options:

  1.  In some cases, a parent who served in the military may transfer GI Bill benefits to a child or spouse. If that parent is the noncustodial parent, he or she may negotiate, for example, that the transfer covers a child’s college expenses or decreases child support payments.
  2.  If one parent is employed by a college or university, these institutions often reduce tuition for employees’ families, but a negotiated agreement with the other parent must consider what happens if the parent leaves the job or a child doesn’t wish to attend that institution.
  3.  When parents negotiate a child support agreement, they should also determine what effect a scholarship award to the child may have on the amount each parent has agreed to pay.

When May a Child Support Agreement Be Changed?

The courts understand that life’s circumstances change. When you divorce, it is impossible to know the future. Over time, parenting plans and child custody orders can become outdated or unworkable.

However, if you need to change a negotiated child support agreement or a court-ordered child support arrangement, you will need to have a Pennsylvania child support attorney request a modification of the agreement or order on your behalf.

Pennsylvania courts will approve only those modifications that are considered to be in the child’s best interests. Child support modifications may be sought for reasons that include but are not limited to:

  1.  a change in the amount of time either parent spends with the child
  2.  a change in the child’s medical, educational, or child care needs
  3.  a remarriage by either parent or the birth of a new child to either parent
  4.  either parent’s loss of a job, a parent’s new job, or a parent’s need to relocate
  5.  the serious injury, incarceration, or institutionalization of either parent
  6.  anything that greatly impacts the child, either parent, or the child support arrangement

What Else Should Parents Know?

As mentioned previously, Pennsylvania does not require college expense payments or reimbursement for those payments from a parent. Nevertheless, it is a smart idea to reach an agreement in the divorce settlement regarding a child’s college expenses.

If you are a parent who is divorcing, considering a divorce, or anticipating a divorce, if you need a modification of your child support order, or if you need to challenge the other parent’s requested modification of the child support order, you must be advised and represented by a Pennsylvania family law attorney, and you must contact that attorney as soon as possible.

Divorce and family law are complicated in the State of Pennsylvania. You can’t go it alone. Get the help you need – as quickly as you can – from a family law attorney you can trust.

The right family law attorney will help you obtain a fair and proper child support arrangement while ensuring that your rights – and your child’s best interests – are protected throughout the legal process.

If you have children, and are going through a divorce or separation a major thought on your mind is probably what is going to happen with the kids? Who is going to get custody? How is custody decided? What are the different types of custody schedules? These are all very valid and important questions and I know these thoughts can cause anxiety, fear and worry as well. This will give you a little overview on the types of custody in Pennsylvania to try inform you of more information and try and answer some of your questions.

First of all, there are two types of custody. There is legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions for child. Decisions such as where your child attends school, what doctors your child sees, if they are involved in any religious activities are all examples of what would fall under the category of legal custody. Usually legal custody is shared between parents, however in some circumstances legal custody may be solely awarded to one parent.

Next, there is physical custody. Physical custody refers to who the child is physically with. Typically, in any court order there would be an included physical custody schedule. The first kind of physical custody is sole physical custody. This is where one parent has physical custody of the child 100% of the time. Another form of physical custody is shared legal custody where parents share physical custody time. The two common schedules with shared physical custody are 50/50 or a primary/partial schedule. In a 50/50 physical custody schedule the parents share custody and each have the child 50% of the time. A common schedule for this is called a 2, 2, 3 schedule where one parent has the child Monday and Tuesday night, the other parent Wednesday and Thursday night and then the parents alternate week to week who has the child Friday through Sunday. There are other schedules that can be worked out as well. With a primary/partial schedule this is where one parent has physical custody time more than the other. An example of this type of schedule would be where one parent has custody every other weekend. A third custody arrangement could also be supervised visitation. This would mean that one parent would have custody of the child however the other parent has the right to visit with the child so long as they are properly supervised.

When two people have a child together, whether married or not, sometimes it just does not work out and they decide to separate. It is great when two parents who are no longer together have a strong co parenting relationship and can remain amicable with each other for the sake of their children. If you find yourself in one of those relationships you might think that you do not need a child support order because you and the other parent work everything out on your own and so far you have had no issues. While it may seem great that you are able to work everything out between the two of you, it is best to seek a child support order issued by the court.

Why would you want to get a child support order when you have been working it out yourselves? What happens if the payments that you have relied on and worked out between you two stop coming in. What course of action do you have? You call the other parent, you email them but no matter what you do they still are not receiving any financial assistance for your child. They keep telling you they will have it to you soon and then months go by and you have not received anything. By having a child support order you are protecting yourself from this scenario. In most child support orders, if the other parent is a W-2 employee, the child support will be attached to the other parent’s wages so as long as they are being paid you can be assured you will get your support payment. If there is an order and the payments are made directly to you and they stop paying you have options there as well if you have a support order. You can file for enforcement of the child support payments. Having a child support order protects and reassures you that the financial support you rely on for your child will not just disappear one day.