It's not uncommon for divorced parents in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to have different opinions on child support orders. Recipient parents may feel the amount awarded is insufficient, while paying parents may find child support orders burdensome. Some supporting parents may even stop fulfilling their obligations, rather than going through court to request modifications. Unfortunately, this can have adverse effects on the child and serious consequences for the supporting parent.

Failure to pay

In Pennsylvania, parents who do not fulfill their child support obligations may face a number of sanctions, financial and otherwise. According to the Pennsylvania Child Support Handbook, these include:

  • Withholding of federal and state income taxes.
  • Interception of lottery winnings, workers' compensation or other lump sum payments.
  • Driver's license suspension.
  • Fines and even imprisonment up to 2 years.

The more severe penalties, such as imprisonment, are only levied when overdue child support exceeds $5,000. However, a recent case illustrates that this may happen in a relatively short amount of time.

In early June, a Pennsylvania man was arrested for allegedly failing to pay child support for more than two years, according to Maine's Bangor Daily News. The man, who is currently employed, allegedly stopped paying support in January 2012, and he now owes $67,000. If convicted, the man could face a fine of as much as $250,000. He could also be imprisoned for as long as two years, which would make repaying the debt owed even more difficult.

Considering the possibility of outcomes like this, parents in Pennsylvania should take their child support obligations seriously. Parents who legitimately cannot meet those obligations should understand the process for changing child support through legal modifications.

Modification grounds and process

In Pennsylvania, child support is calculated based on a set formula. The formula accounts for the income of each parent and the number of children who will be supported, according to materials from the Pennsylvania Courts.

Under the Pennsylvania Code, a parent may petition for a modified support order if there is a substantial change in the circumstances of either parent or the children. For instance, if a supporting parent loses income or takes on another obligation, such as caring for another child, that parent may have grounds for seeking modifications. Once a petition for modification is filed, it cannot be dismissed until both parents consent to its dismissal or until a family law court has considered the issue.

Making ends meet after a divorce can be challenging, and many people may feel they do not have money or time to pursue their issues in court. However, in the case of child support, it can be much more costly for parents to ignore the issue or try to resolve it alone. Parents who need child support modifications, for whatever reason, should consider seeking qualified legal help to ensure they arrive at a more manageable support arrangement.