Should I Make Child Support Payments Directly If No Wage Attachment Has Been Ordered?
By Kristen Anders Bojarski
Last week I wrote about what to do when a child support payor (obligor) finds himself (we’ll use the masculine pronoun for now, but you female support obligors, this applies to you too!) subject to contempt proceedings for failing to pay child support due to an unexpected loss of income, and how to avoid this by filing a petition for modification. But what can you do to avoid even the possibility of being swept into the nightmare that is contempt proceedings? The answer is obvious: pay your child support as ordered. Yeah, you think, easy for you to say, but what if I can’t afford it?
In some cases when a payor has lost his job, he has some savings to fall back on or friends or family willing to help out financially until he gets back on his feet. If you are one of these people, you should still immediately file for modification of your child support order, but you should continue to pay the full support amount as ordered until your support modification hearing. If you do that, you will avoid contempt charges being filed against you, and if the order is modified, and through a temporary reduction in your obligation, you will likely eventually get back any money you might have overpaid.
Child support is normally wage attached, that is, your employer deducts it right out of your paycheck and sends it to Pennsylvania State Collection and Disbursement Unit, or PASCDU, who then distributes it to the support obligee. When you have no employer, the responsibility is yours. (However, if you qualify for unemployment benefits, the wage attachment is normally transferred to that benefit).
Sometimes support obigors decide to pay the obligee directly by cash or check. BAD IDEA! DO NOT DO THIS! Not only will you not get credit against your support obligation for the support you paid directly, Domestic Relations will likely begin contempt proceedings against you if their system shows that you are behind more than 30 days. You MUST send ALL child support payments, even partial payments, to PASCDU.
I am aware of a recent case in which the obligor, for several reasons which seemed logical, paid his child support directly to the obligee; the modification hearing did not take place for several months. At the hearing, the obligee denied receiving some of the payments and/or said that certain payments were not actually for support. As a result, after the hearing, the obligor’s wages were attached and arrears were set for many of those months he made direct payments to the obligee. Ultimately, after several months and spending a lot of money on attorney fees and expenses for copies of money orders, most of the payments were credited. (Hint: If the obligee had been receiving welfare, the obligor would have gotten NO CREDIT FOR HIS PAYMENTS AT ALL, as the support payments would have been owed to welfare.)
So, if your child support obligation is not wage attached, you must send your payments directly to PASCDU, not to the obligor. Below is the direct link to the PASCDU website with instructions on how to make payments and where to send them: