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When one files for child support can be important; however, it is legally permissible to do so before, during or after the divorce. If you are unlucky enough to have a spouse unwilling to financially support the kids and you can do without the money for a short time, you should consider waiting until the divorce is final because doing anything that would cause your spouse not to sign the necessary divorce papers would stop your low-cost no-fault Pennsylvania divorce and easily make it too expensive and complex to continue. Also, waiting until the divorce is final to go for child support means your spouse cannot negotiate an unfairly small amount of support in exchange for signing the divorce papers.

But the real topic here is how to file for child support. Did you know that every married person who applies for public assistance (welfare as it is commonly called) is required to file for support? The spouse may or may not be made to pay support, but the public assistance would still be paid. Obviously, a person in such dire financial need cannot afford a lawyer to file the support case, yet the support case must be filed. What does that tell you? That it is actually easy to do on your own! You simply go to the county’s support office where you live and you will receive all of the help you need to file the support action. If you like, Google “Pennsylvania Support Guidelines” and you will be able to get an idea about how much support the Court would make your spouse pay. (Be sure to read the instructions first. If you give in to the temptation to go right to the support chart, you’re bound to end up with the wrong amount, which may be too low, for example.) It may take weeks or even a few months for the support payments to begin, but that is just how slow or fast your County system moves.

In many situations, one may need the support payment more than the divorce, so go ahead and file before (or instead of) filing the divorce. If you do that, at least two things may happen. One is that your spouse may eventually get used to paying the support and might then sign the divorce papers in a cheap Pennsylvania divorce. The other is that if you filed for child AND spousal support (for yourself), and you can do with just the portion that is child support, you could tell your spouse that if the divorce papers are signed, as soon as the divorce is granted, your spouse could go to the support Court and have the spousal portion of the support stopped.

One more thing. Typically, you will have to spend some time in your local courthouse with an appointed administrator (or even in the courtroom) and your spouse is supposed to be there too. If your spouse has a lawyer for the hearing and you do not, it may well be the case that your spouse could end up paying less than you expected. The opposite is true if you have a lawyer and your spouse does not. If neither of you has a lawyer (or if you both do), the outcome should be reasonably fair. Bear this in mind: The amount of support is usually a proper and just amount when your spouse feels it too high and you feel it is too low. There is seldom truly enough money to “go around”.