Baltimore, MD asked in Family Law and Child Support for Pennsylvania

Q: My ex-wife has 3 kids and I have been hearing all over town that none of the kids are mine and the state of PA

The state of Pennsylvania said since I'm disabled I don't have to pay child support what can I do

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1 Lawyer Answer

Amanda J Iannuzzelli

Answered
  • Media, PA
  • Licensed in Pennsylvania

A: First and foremost, it appears that you are having an issue with both paternity and child support. Typically, both of these matters are handled in the Domestic Relations section of your local Court of Common Pleas and are automatically addressed when the parents are of a child for whom support is being sought were unmarried at the time of his or her birth. However, if your children were born during the marriage, you are considered the putative father, which means that you are assumed to be the biological father and held financially responsible for the children until proven elsewise.

However, if you have questions about the paternity of your children, you may file a Complaint to Establish Paternity and for Genetic Testing, pursuant to 231 Pa. Code Rule 1930.6. Paternity Actions. This is a link to the statute page and provides an explanation of when, why and where you would want to file this petition, as well as providing a form for the complaint: https://www.pacode.com/secure/data/231/chapter1930/s1930.6.html

When you file this complaint and serve it to the opposing party, you will receive a notice of court designating a court date for the matter to be heard. However, until and unless you can prove otherwise, you will remain the punitive father of all children born of the marriage and will continue to be held financially responsible for those children. You will remain responsible for paying any child support orders currently in place with the Court.

To change or be absolved of the responsibility to pay a child support order, you must file a petition to modify or terminate that order with the Court that issued it. In order to have a valid reason to do this, you must assert that there has been a substantial change in circumstance that would significantly affect your ability to pay the current running order. The designation of disabled would meet the criteria of "a substantial change in circumstance", and thus would be a valid and legitimate reason to ask the Court to reconsider the amount and whether you should be required to continue paying child support.

Additionally, the statement that disabled individuals are not required to pay child support is wholly inaccurate. If you are designated disabled, and have a running support order, nothing changes unless you file something with the Court. The amount and whether you have to pay depends specifically on your unique situation. It is important to know and remember that social security disability (SSD) is included as a form of income for child support calculations. This means that even if you are unable to work, if you receive SSD, it will be used to determine your child support and garnished accordingly. You may be confusing SSD with SSI, which is awarded to individuals with low incomes, and thus is not garnishable for a child support order.

If you truly believe that there may be some legitimacy to the rumors that your children may not biologically be yours, I would suggest that you simulateously file both a Complaint to Establish Patenity and for Genetic Testing, and a Petition to Modify Child Support on the basis of a substantial change in circumstance, namely that you have been designated as disabled and are receiving social security disability (SSD). The Court will schedule separate hearings for the paternity complaint and child support petition. For paternity, the outcome of the court hearing will likely be that a paternity test is ordered. For the child support petition, a hearing will also be scheduled where a new amount of child support will be re-calculated, using your disability benefits and any subsequently awarded derivative benefits. Therefore it is likely that your payment will be lowered, and possibly terminated, depending on your unique situation. If you have a running child support order, it is always best to file a petition immediately, as the modification will be retroactive back to the date of filing.

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