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How to Obtain Child Support
Filing a Petition for Support

The party seeking support for a child in their care must file a Petition for Support at the Domestic Relations Section. Petitions may be obtained by calling or stopping at the DRS office. You may also schedule an appointment with the Intake Officer if you need assistance. The completed papers will be filed with the Court, and requests for earnings of both parties are made of respective employers. Files are referred to a Hearing Officer to schedule an initial conference. The time between filing a case and the conference is about four weeks. Notification of the conference is forwarded to both parties by US mail.

Parties must have as much of the following information as possible when filing for support:
  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Dates of Birth
  • Employment information
  • Medical insurance information
  • Profession and Trade license information
  • Most recent paystub
  • Most recent tax return
  • Date of marriage and separation, if married
  • Prior case information
  • Paternity information on child(ren)

The Support Conference
 
An initial conference is held at the Domestic Relations office at which time both parties must appear in person. Telephonic testimony is also accepted but must first be approved by the Hearing Officer ahead of time. After evidence presented, an Order of Support is entered either by agreement of parties or by recommendation of the Hearing Officer. The Order as prepared at the conference is submitted to a Judge for his/her review and signature. Support is based on Guidelines established by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania which apply each party's income and expenses. Defendants are expected to bring initial payment at the time of this conference.

** If a defendant pays his/her beginning balance at the initial conference, the $45 court cost fee will be waived.

Should either party not be in agreement with the recommended Order, a written request for a new Hearing may be filed within (20) days of the filing date of the Order at the Domestic Relations Section. A Hearing De Novo will then be scheduled before a Judge. The Order made by recommendation remains in effect while awaiting a new Hearing before the Court so payments will be required. 


Paternity 

If a child is born out of wedlock, the issue of paternity is addressed at the initial conference. If you have the child in your care, you should bring the child with you to the initial conference if you expect paternity to be an issue as tests will be conducted that same day. If the Respondent agrees he is the father of a child, an Acknowledgment of Paternity/Waiver of Trial is signed by the Respondent at the conference. The Respondent may deny paternity at the initial conference and request genetic tests to determine paternity of the child. The Respondent is assessed the cost for testing. A genetic test will be conducted at the conference by a trained DRS employee. Using a large Q-tip, cheek cells will be obtained from mother, child and alleged father. The samples are forwarded to a laboratory specializing in paternity testing. If results indicate the alleged father is excluded from paternity of a child, the support case is dismissed with prejudice(which means the mother of the child cannot attempt to file against him again in the future), and the total cost of the test is refunded to him. If a Petitioner is not a welfare recipient, the total costs will then be assessed to her for repayment to the Domestic Relations Section. If results indicate that an alleged father cannot be excluded from paternity, another conference is scheduled to resolve the paternity issue. At that conference, paternity will be established by Court Order and an Order of Support is entered per the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines. Support is awarded retroactively back to the filing date of the Petition for Support, which means the case will start with back support due unless the beginning balance is paid in full at the time of the initial conference.
 
Legal Counsel

Either party may wish to employ the services of an attorney at any phase of support proceedings, however, this is not a requirement. If you cannot afford an attorney, please contact the Centre County Court Administrator's Office at 355-6727.

Complaint for Support Packet [PDF] 

Click above to download the petition and instructions in PDF format. Petitions are also available at the DRS office.



Enforcement

Enforcement becomes necessary when a Respondent fails to make complete and timely payments. A Respondent must be (30) days past due in his/her payments before enforcement action can be taken. We require that all complaints be submitted in writing. Each case has a specific enforcement officer assigned to it. Parties will work with their specific enforcement officer to ensure timely payment and work through any issues which may arise regarding compliance with the court order.

If a Respondent is receiving income which can be attached, an Order for Attachment can be entered directing support payments to be withheld. Once an attachment is made, it will not be removed until the case is closed. A wage attachment can be entered at anytime by the request of either party.

If we have exhausted our options for securing timely payment, we will set a Hearing before the Court asking that the Respondent be found in Contempt and sentenced to jail should he/she fail to make further payment as ordered by the Court. If the Respondent fails to appear for a Contempt Hearing, upon proof of service, a bench warrant can be issued for his/her arrest.

Other enforcement programs exist to collect arrears such as credit bureau reporting, suspension of driver's license, suspension of recreational licenses such as hunting and fishing, liens on real or personal property, freeze and seize of bank accounts, passport denial, Federal and/or State Income Tax Refund intercepts and State Lottery winnings intercepts. Each program has its own criteria for submission and can be used to collect overdue arrears in a lump sum fashion. 
 



Petitions to Modify an Order

A Petition is an official request to have the present support Order reviewed for either an increase or decrease in the amount. The party filing must show a significant change in circumstance such as:
  1. Divorce – spousal support to cease
  2. Emancipation – child(ren) is over 18 or out of high school, whichever occurs last.
  3. Large change in earnings of either party.
  4. Either party can request a review of current order at least every three years if the order has not been reviewed within that time.

If a Defendant becomes incarcerated, contact the DRS at once to obtain a petition for modification so circumstances can be determined if support should be modified or suspended immediately. 

Both parties are required to report to the Domestic Relations Section in writing within (7) days any change in address, place of employment, phone number and any other change of circumstances. 

Petition for Modification of an Existing Support Order [PDF]

Click above to download the petition and instructions in PDF format. Petitions are also available at the DRS office.



Costs

Most services of the Domestic Relations Section are free. A fee schedule lists costs for certain services that are not free.