Berman & Asbel, LLP

Pennsylvania vows pursuit of delinquent child support payments

The state of Pennsylvania is celebrating its child support collection program and promising to continue tracking down parents who are behind on their payments. Governor Tom Corbett proclaimed August as Child Support Enforcement Awareness Month, and he claims the state has enjoyed "exemplary success" in child support collections and enforcement efforts. He promises the state will stay on the case of people who don't pay what the courts have ordered.

Delinquent child support payments can be the result of factors out of the non-custodial parent's control. Loss of a job, sickness, emergencies, dislocation and many other pitfalls in the path of life can interfere with a parent's ability to pay. A child support order case file may not reflect these reasons and instead paints a picture of an uninvolved or "deadbeat" parent trying to duck responsibility.

Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare's Bureau of Child Support Enforcement is emphasizing "efficiency" in collecting payments, and has inked agreements with the 67 county Courts of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Sections to speed the collection process. Parents who are behind on their payments, for whatever reason, may encounter a court unwilling to examine the situation in detail. Having skilled legal counsel is essential in cases like this, especially when the state's emphasis is on moving with all possible speed.

Pennsylvania brags that for every dollar spent on pursuing child support payments, it collects $5.80, more than the national average of $5.10. The state says its average collection per case is $3,233.00 -- 45 percent more than the national average. Overall, the state collected and disbursed $1.55 billion to custodial parents in 2010 and 2011.

Federal rules require that states meet five specific requirements in their child support collection efforts:

  • Determine paternity
  • Use the courts to establish child support orders
  • Collect the current monthly child support payments
  • Collect overdue payments
  • Be cost-effective in their collection efforts

The complexity of these rules and the laws governing child support payments, modifications to child support orders, and resolution of disputes is beyond a layman's skill. Successfully arguing one's case, especially in the face of a determined state agency, is an argument that only an attorney should make.

Source: PRNewswire, "Pennsylvania marks child support enforcement awareness month," Aug. 1, 2012

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