What YOU need to know about
Pennsylvania Child Support

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The Pennsylvania Child Support program has been a big help in collecting child support that is owed to custodial parents. The Pennsylvania Support Guidelines were developed with the idea that the child(ren) of separated, divorced or single parents should receive the same amount of parental support as if the parents were together.

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The State Supreme Court issues these guidelines for the DRS to use in calculating how much child support a parent should pay. The guidelines are based on the needs of the child and the ability of the parents to provide support. The noncustodial parent is required to provide child support until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later, unless otherwise ordered by the court.

The Pennsylvania Child Support Program is very good in helping you understand how child support works. The staff is trained to make sure you get the child support that is owed to you along with helping the non-custodial parent too. The services provided by the Pennsylvania Child Support Program include the following:

  • Locating non-custodial parents
  • Establishing Paternity
  • Establishing Support Orders
  • Enforcing Support Orders
  • Reviewing and Adjusting Support Orders
  • Monitoring & Distributing Child Support Payments
  • Cooperating in Interstate enforcement

Establishing Paternity

In Pennsylvania, when a child is born to a woman who is unmarried, there is no legal relationship between the father and the child. A father of a child born to an unmarried woman is not the father for legal purposes unless:

  • Both parents have signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity form
  • A Domestic Relations Section (DRS) or court has entered an order that establishes the legal father of the child.

Note: Under current Pennsylvania Child Support law, when a child is born to a married woman, the husband is the presumed legal father of the child.

What is an Acknowledgment of Paternity form and when can it be signed?

If the mother is unmarried, she and the father may sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form, at the time of birth. The hospital staff will give the unmarried mother and birth father an Acknowledgment of Paternity form to complete. After leaving the hospital, if both parties wish to file an Acknowledgment of Paternity, the form can be obtained at County Assistance Offices, or by contacting the Department of Public Welfare, Bureau of Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement. An Acknowledgment of Paternity form must include the signed consent of the birth mother and signature of the birth father. The signatures must be witnessed by someone other than the birth mother or birth father. Then, the form is recorded as an acknowledgment of paternity.

A voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity may be cancelled by either party within 60 days after the form is signed or the date of a court proceeding related to the child, whichever is sooner. After the 60 days, the acknowledgment of paternity may be challenged in court only on the basis of fraud, duress or material mistake of fact, which must be established by clear and convincing evidence.

The Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines:

The Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines provide direction for setting the amount of a support order and were established with the concept that children of separated, divorced, or single parents should receive the same amount of parental support as children whose parents are together. The Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines make financial support of a child a primary obligation and are based upon the reasonable needs of the child and the ability of the noncustodial parent to provide support. The Support Guidelines are also used to determine obligations in spousal support cases.

The Support Guidelines are in the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure The Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines:

  • Promote consistency of support awards in similar cases
  • Treat each child equitably so that all children belonging to the same parent receive equal support and treatment
  • Place primary emphasis on the net incomes and earning capacities of the parents with allowable deviations for unusual needs, extraordinary expenses, and other factors that warrant special attention
  • Require a written or recorded finding that specifies the guideline amount and the amount of, and reasons for, any deviation if the guideline amount of support is not ordered
  • Incorporate a Self-Support Reserve to make sure that low-income, noncustodial parents retain sufficient income to meet their basic needs and to maintain the incentive to continue work
  • Provide for proportionate sharing of child-care costs based on the parents' net incomes so that expenses are divided in the same manner as other expenses that are typically added to the basic support obligation
  • Are reviewed and updated every four years to consider changing economic, social and legal conditions

Locate Service

Pennsylvania's Child Support Program is a combined effort of the federal, state and county governments to collect money from absent parents. PACSES is Pennsylvania Child Support automated Child Support Enforcement System used by all 67 county Domestic Relations Sections. The main goal of the program is to ensure that children are supported by both parents.


In Pennsylvania, income-withholding is mandatory for all child support orders, except when the obligor is not behind in payment of support in an amount equal to or more than one month's support payment; and if the court finds that there is good cause not to require immediate income withholding or a written agreement is reached between the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent, which provides for an alternative arrangement. An income-withholding order is not used for self-employed noncustodial parents. The court will issue a mandatory income-withholding order if arrears accrue in an amount equal to one month's support obligation even if good cause has been shown or there is a written agreement not to impose income-withholding.

What can happen if a non-custodial parent does not pay Pennsylvania Child Support?

  • Civil Contempt
  • Jail for up to six months, a fine up to $500, or probation for up to six months
  • Seizure of your bank accounts
  • Seizure of any Personal Injury or Workers Compensation Awards
  • Seizure of your Federal and State Tax Refunds
  • Suspension of your Driver’s, Professional, Occupational, and/or Recreational Licenses (Hunting & Fishing)
  • Passport Denial
  • Liens against any Real Property that you own
  • Interception of Lottery Winnings
  • Credit Bureau Reporting
  • Publication of your name in the newspaper as a delinquent parent

Child Support and Cash Assistance

If a parent or spouse applies for or receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or General Assistance, also called cash assistance, the law requires cooperation in establishing paternity and pursuing a support order. If domestic or family violence or other circumstances makes complying with these support requirements dangerous or inappropriate, the County Assistance Office (CAO) may excuse an applicant or recipient from cooperating based on Good Cause.

Health Care Coverage

Can I get health care coverage for my child?

The Pennsylvania Child Support law gives the courts the authority to order parents to provide health care coverage for their children if it is available at no cost or at a reasonable cost. Health care coverage includes medical, surgical, dental, orthodontic and optical services. Other services that may be included by court order are psychological, psychiatric or other health care services for a child.

How do I seek health care coverage for a child?

Anyone who has custody of a child can apply for Pennsylvania Child Support services at the county Domestic Relations Section (DRS) of the Court of Common Pleas.The DRS will help people seeking child support to set up a new support order or change an existing order to include health care coverage.

The court:

  • Will determine each parent's responsibility to provide health care coverage.
  • Will decide which parent has primary responsibility for health care coverage; usually, it is the parent who has access to coverage at work.
  • May require one or both parents to pay part of the expenses not covered by the health care coverage, including birth-related expenses that occurred prior to the application for support.
  • Will enforce a court order if a parent who is ordered to provide health care coverage fails to do so.

What must the employer and the health care administrator do?

When an employed parent is ordered to provide health care coverage, the employer and the health care plan administrator must comply with federal and state laws. A plan administrator that manages the health care coverage for an employer must:

  • Make the health care coverage available to the child without regard to custody arrangements, seasonal or other enrollment restrictions or the child's residence.
  • Enroll a child born out of wedlock or a child who is not claimed as a dependent on the federal income tax return of the parent without custody.
  • Enroll each child named in the support order into the employer-sponsored health care coverage plan if it is available at no cost or at a reasonable cost.
  • Process and pay claims to the individual with custody of the child.
  • Tell the individual with custody of the child about changes in the health care coverage.
  • Provide health care benefit booklets to the individual with custody of the child.
  • Allow the individual with custody of the child to enroll the child.

Disenroll or eliminate coverage for a child only when:

  1. Notified in writing that the court order is no longer in effect
  2. The child is enrolled or will be enrolled in comparable health care coverage beginning on the date of disenrollment
  3. The employer has eliminated family health care coverage for all employees
  4. Any available continuation coverage is not elected
  5. The employee is no longer eligible for family health care coverage due to a change in employment status.

Getting The Facts About A Child's Health Care Coverage By law, the person with custody of the child must receive the following information:

  • The name of the administrator of the health care coverage
  • Health care cards and identification numbers
  • Instructions on how and where to file a claim
  • Claim forms
  • Basic benefit facts, including deductibles, co-payments and any restrictions on coverage.

The National Medical Support Notice

The National Medical Support Notice is a medical child support order that state child support enforcement agencies must use to enforce medical child support. The National Medical Support Notice is used when a parent is ordered to provide health care coverage for his/her child and is employed or in active military or reserve military duty. The county DRS sends the National Medical Support Notice to the employer. The employer and the health care coverage plan administrator must complete the National Medical Support Notice. The health care coverage information is then reported to the county DRS. Click here for more information about the National Medical Support Notice.


The county DRS is responsible for maintaining the confidentiality and security of protected health information in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This includes information in your health records including, but not limited to, names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, medical/health plan numbers, Social Security numbers, and birth dates.

What is considered Good Cause for not filing for support?

Domestic Violence - Good Cause is granted when pursuing support would:

  • Make it more difficult for an individual or family member to escape domestic violence
  • Place an individual or family member at risk of further domestic violence
  • Unfairly penalize an individual who has been victimized or who is at risk of further violence.

Note: Many government agencies and groups that work in the prevention of domestic violence use the phrases "domestic violence," "domestic abuse," and "family violence" to mean the same thing.

Rape, Incest or Adoption - Good Cause is granted when:

  • The child was conceived as a result of rape or incest.
  • Court proceedings for adoption of the child are pending or the parent is working with an agency that is helping to decide whether or not the child should be placed for adoption and these discussions have not progressed for more than three months.

  • How and when can someone request Good Cause?

    Good Cause can be claimed at any time. When the Domestic Relations Section (DRS) is told that someone wants to claim Good Cause, the DRS will not take any action on establishing paternity or support. Applicants for or recipients of cash assistance will be referred to the CAO for help in filling out the domestic violence verification form (PA 1747) or providing verification in cases of rape, incest or adoption. Ask the CAO staff for help! The CAO will decide whether or not to grant Good Cause and will give written notice of this decision to the individual that claimed Good Cause. If the Good Cause claim is denied, the individual claiming Good Cause has the right to appeal and request a fair hearing.

    What does Assignment of Support Rights mean?

    If you receive cash benefits, all support including arrears (back support) will be paid to the State. This is called "assignment of support rights" and is required by law. When cash benefits stop, you will get current support but arrears may go to the State to repay the cash and other reimbursable assistance that you received for your family. Reimbursable assistance is the cash assistance and other assistance such as childcare and transportation that you and your family received. The State can only collect arrears equal to the arrears assigned to the State or the total reimbursable assistance, whichever is less. Medical support may be paid to the State. The State will only keep medical support up to the amount paid under the Medical Assistance Program.

    What is a Support pass-through?

    Every month that the amount of Pennsylvania Child Support owed is paid on time for a family receiving assistance, DPW pays a portion of the child support to the custodial parent or caretaker. This is called the child support pass-through. A family will receive up to $50 in Pennsylvania Child Support pass-through, regardless of the number of children. The support pass-through is based on the part of the support payment that Federal law allows Pennsylvania to keep, which is about 54 percent. For example:

    • If DPW collects $111.24 or more of current Pennsylvania Child Support in November 2005, the support pass-through for December is $50.00.
    • If DPW collects $100 of current Pennsylvania Child Support in November 2005, the support pass-through for December is $44.95.

    Pennsylvania Child Support Resources and Telephone Numbers

    The Bureau of Child Support Enforcement
    Child Support Helpline

    Pennsylvania State Collection and Disbursement Unit
    1-877-727- SCDU (7238) (for people who pay or receive support)

    Hearing Impairment 1-877-676-9582.

    You can review your payment information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To speak with a
    Customer Service person, call between 8 AM and 5 PM, Monday through Friday.

    The Department of Public Welfare, Bureau of Child Support Enforcement Paternity Coordinator
    1-800-932-0211 - Press Option Number 4
    Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

    Health Care Coverage
    Child Support Helpline

    Medicaid Information Helpline

    Explain Your Child Support Situation:

    Tell us your "Child Support or Family Law Situation" and you will receive a response from a Child Support America Team Member. Be sure to write a detailed story. You can also read and comment to other posts below.

    Important note: After you submit your comments, be sure to put a check mark in the boxes where indicated and enter your email address. This will ensure that you receive a response after we review your question.

    Enter A Title For Your Child Support Situation (ex. "How do I start a child support order?")

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