When PA courts determine the amount of child support a parent must pay, that amount is not permanent and final, and it can be modified. In Pennsylvania child support may be modified pursuant to Rule 1901.19 of Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, relating to domestic relations. The rule states that in order for a party to seek modification of support, that party must first petition to Court to modify the existing order. As part of the petition for modification, the moving party must show that there was a substantial change in circumstances from the time the previous order was entered. For example, a parent may seek to modify child support when there is a change in the other parent’s income triggered by a promotion at work resulting in earning significantly more than when the child support order was entered, or there is a change in their own income. Likewise, a parent who is paying child support may file a petition to modify and decrease child support payments, if he/she loses his/her job through no fault of their own or suffers an injury that affects the parent’s ability to work.
When Child Support Cannot Be Modified in Bucks County
It is important to note that Courts will not modify child support orders if the change in circumstances was due to a party’s intentional act. For instance, if a parent who is paying child support quits his job in order to pay less and files a petition to modify child support arguing that he/she has lost his/her job, the Court will likely refuse to modify child support and require the party to pay child support based on his/her previous income.
The key elements in child support matters which you want to keep in mind are “through no fault of their own” and “voluntary reduction.” When someone receives unemployment compensation there is a presumption that the termination of employment was through no fault of their own. However, that presumption (even while receiving unemployment) can be overcome by factual evidence. For example, the party was employed by a relative and “suddenly” the compensation was reduced so the party could not earn as much, even though the position, responsibilities and other benefits had not changed.
There are instances when a closely held company such as a family business may compensate an employee through methods not normally captured by the Bucks County Court. In these instances undisclosed income of the payor or payee can be proven through other methods. It is recommended that an attorney be involved in income determination due to the complexity of having discovery permitted in the support matter.
It is also prudent to remember that support can only be modified retroactively to the filing date of the petition, and not to the date the change in circumstance occurred. Because of that you should consider contacting an attorney to file for modification of the existing support order as soon as a substantial change in circumstances occurs. You are certainly welcome to call our offices in Doylestown and Newtown, Bucks County, to have a consultation with one of our support attorneys who have a great deal of experience in handling such matters.