Preparing for Your Conference & Hearing

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Conference and Hearing

Once a support complaint has been "filed", both parties will receive an "Order of Court"”". The Order will notify you of the date and time to appear for the conference along with other instructions. These instructions include important information required to establish a support order. This information includes:

A true copy of your most recent Federal Income Tax Return, including W-2s, as filed

Your pay stubs for the preceding six (6) months in hard copy form

The Income Statement and the appropriate Expense Statement, if required, attached to this order

Verification of child care expenses

Proof of medical coverage which you may have, or may have available to you;

If a physician has determined that a medical condition affects your ability to earn income you must obtain a Physician Verification Form, sign it, have it completed by your doctor, and bring it with you to the conference.

Information relating to professional licenses

Any other documentation that may be helpful in determining the support order

On the day of the conference, you should report to the Domestic Relations Section at least fifteen minutes before the scheduled time of your conference. You will be seen by a Conference Officer once both parties have checked in with the receptionist. Depending upon individual circumstances, even if one party fails to appear, the conference may proceed and an order may be entered.

Please do not bring children to the conference unless you are notified to do so.

What happens at the Conference?

The Conference Officer will use the income information provided by both parties to enter a support order. All support orders are calculated on a monthly basis. The amount of support is based mainly on both parties' net monthly income. In Pennsylvania, the support amount is determined by using the Pennsylvania State Guidelines.

Click here to view the PA Rules of Civil Procedure for more information concerning the guidelines.

Click here to view the Pennsylvania Child Support website to estimate your child support.

Both parties will receive a copy of the support order at the conclusion of the conference along with payment and legal information. The defendant (party responsible for support payments or non-custodial parent) will receive payment instructions that include the payment coupons and various methods of making payments. The plaintiff (party that filed the complaint for support or custodial parent) has the option of receiving support payments through direct deposit to their bank account or Eppicard (debit card issued by the State).

Establishing Paternity

The issue of paternity must be resolved before a child support order can be determined. If the child is born out of wedlock and the alleged father (the man who was named as the father) appears at a conference and denies that he is the father of the child, the conference cannot go any further until paternity is established.

The Domestic Relations Section will arrange for the parties and the child to have paternity testing. The paternity testing is conducted in the Domestic Relations Section on the same date as the conference or will be scheduled depending on the circumstances. The test uses a cotton swab to collect DNA samples from the inside of the cheek from both parties and the child. The genetic samples are sent to the laboratory to determine whether or not the man is the biological father for that child. The results of the paternity tests are typically received by the Domestic Relations Section within 48 hours and then sent to both parties. The cost of the test is $56.85 per family.

What happens at the Hearing?

If the parties do not agree to the amount of support determined by the guidelines at the conference, a Hearing will be scheduled. The Conference Officer will enter an Interim (temporary) Order for the recommended amount determined by the guidelines. The case will be scheduled before a Hearing Officer (Master) within sixty days. If the Conference Officer is unable to enter an Interim Order, the case may be heard by the Hearing Officer the same day as the conference.

If either party disagrees with the Hearing Officer's recommendation, they may file an Appeal to have the case heard by a Judge within twenty (20) days from the Court hearing. You may have your attorney file the appeal or you may come to the Domestic Relations Section for assistance. If an Appeal is not filed within twenty (20) days, the Hearing Officer's recommendation will become a Final Order of the Court.

You are required to appear at all conferences and hearings unless you are approved for a continuance. Continuance forms are available only at the Domestic Relations Section.

Failure to appear at a conference or hearing may result in the issuance of a bench warrant or your petition being dismissed.

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