What Is Support?

The term support is usually defined as money given by a person to help provide food, clothing, shelter and other necessities for his or her dependents. The term dependents refer to the spouse and/or children whom a person is legally bound to support. Therefore, in domestic relations, support refers to two separate money obligations, child support and spousal support. The person filing for support (plaintiff) may request medical and hospitalization coverage for the spouse and children be provided by the absent parent (defendant). 

Support Obligation

The law in Pennsylvania states that the custodial parent or caretaker is entitled to receive child support from the absent parent. Child support takes priority over all other bills which the absent parent may have. The law states that both parents have an equal obligation to support their children. However, the amount of the support obligation depends on many factors. Both parents are expected to support the children according to their ability. 

Generally, children are entitled to receive support until their 18th birthday or until they graduate from high school. Parents may be required to pay child support when their child has been placed out of the home by a Juvenile Court Judge or child welfare agency. In those instances, the local county is the plaintiff, and both parents are expected to reimburse the county according to established guidelines. 

Dependent Support

Support for a dependent spouse is called either spousal support, if the parties are married and no divorce action has been filed or alimony pendente lite, if the dependent spouse is asking for support in connection with a divorce. A dependent spouse is one who proves that he or she lacks the ability to earn enough income because of lack of skills, lack of education, ill-health, or has the responsibility of taking care of young children. The dependent spouse is entitled to support at a level equal to the standard of living the family had during the marriage, if the other spouse's finances are sufficient. 

How Support Action Begins

The Domestic Relations Office will prepare a complaint for support. A conference will be scheduled before a Conference Officer. The purpose of the conference is to determine if an agreement can be reached. If not, the Conference Officer will make a recommendation to the Court. 

What to Bring When Filing a Complaint

  • Absent parent’s current address
  • Date of birth
  • Employer name
  • Social security number
  • Telephone number

You will also need the social security number(s) and birth date(s) of dependents for whom support is requested. You may provide additional relevant information to help locate and assist Domestic Relations Office with establishment of an order.