“The Nightmare That is Support Contempt Proceedings” by Kristen Anders Bojarski, Esquire

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In a previous blog post we discussed what to do when you find yourself thrown into contempt proceedings for failing to pay child support due to an unexpected loss of income, and how to defend against it 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.

In some cases where a child support obligor has lost his or her job, they have some savings to fall back on or friends and family willing to help out financially until they get back on their feet.  If you are one of these people, you should still immediately file for modification of child support, but continue to pay the full support amount as ordered until you have your support conference/hearing.  If you do that, you will at least avoid contempt, and eventually get back any money you might have overpaid.

Except in some limited circumstances, child support is always wage attached, i.e., the 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 obligee.  When you no longer have an employer to take care of this for you, it is your responsibility to make sure your child support gets to PASCDU on time.  One major mistake people often make is paying the obligee directly by cash or check.  DO NOT DO THIS!  If you pay the obligee directly, then Domestic Relations in your county will have no idea that the support was paid.  Not only will you not get credit for the support you paid, Domestic Relations will begin contempt proceedings against you if their system shows that you are behind more than 30 days.  You must send child support payments to PASCDU!

I had a case recently where I represented the Father in child support and other proceedings.  For several reasons, the child support hearing did not take place until about 6 months after Mother filed.  Although we had a temporary order in place in between that time, and Father’s wages were eventually attached, for many of those months he had to make direct payments to Mother.  When we finally had the hearing and sought credit for the direct payments (about $5,000 worth), Mother claimed that Father never gave her the payments at all, and that the copies of the checks and money orders he produced were fake.  Even after we eventually proved that Father did make the payments, Mother continued to refuse to give Father credit for them.  Mother’s attorney was eventually able to get Mother to agree to give Father credit for the payments, but it cost him a lot of time, attorney fees and stress.   It was certainly a lesson to him, and me as well.

So, if your child support is not wage attached for whatever reason, you must send your payments directly to PASCDU.  Below is the direct link to the PASCDU website with instructions on how to make payments and where to send them:

https://www.humanservices.state.pa.us/csws/CSWS_controller.aspx?pageId=Member/payor_payment_options.ascx

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