About Your Conference
The Domestic Relations Section (DRS), where your conference will be held, is located at 126 S. Union St. Easton, PA. The building is secured at the front entrance with electronic weapons screening devices to assure your safety, and the safety of all who enter.
Your case has been assigned to a conference officer who will conduct a support conference in order to recommend to the Court a support obligation in your case. The conference officer is a quasi-judicial officer who will ensure that the necessary information is obtained from all parties, and a fair disposition determined, by agreement if possible. Thereafter, the original conference officer will monitor your file for enforcement purposes.
Conference Officers carry extremely heavy caseloads (there are currently over 9,000 active support cases in Northampton County). To assure all litigants get equal treatment, we must require strict and full compliance with appointments, court appearances, and information requests.
Currently Pennsylvania law requires that the amount of child support be based on income and expense of each parent. Support orders must conform to statewide support amount guidelines set by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The total amount of income you have, including active earnings, is one of the most important factors to determine the amount of any support order. When appearing at conference to establish liability and amounts of support, be prepared with full and complete financial information as directed in the Order of Court for Mandatory Conference. Failure to supply necessary information will work to your financial disadvantage, and may result in delays that may result in high arrearage balances due to Orders being entered retroactive to the date of filing.
The support guidelines have been calculated after making allowance for separate spousal living expenses. Adjustments from the guidelines can be made only in the unusual case where extraordinary conditions prevail. Your rights, obligations and ongoing management of your case will be more fully explained by the Conference Officer at the mandatory conference.
When support orders are established, Federal and Pennsylvania law require immediate entry of a wage attachment, compelling payer's employer to deduct the support amount from payer's pay and to forward the sum promptly to the State Collections and Disbursement Unit (SCDU). Once a payment is received at SCDU, the payment is issued promptly to the payee, usually within 48 hours. During the course of the proceedings, if support liability is established, you will receive written rules which govern the conduct of both parties to the action.
Effective Date of Order
Under Pennsylvania law, payments of support are required from the date of the petition. The amount of support payments will not be decided until entry of the order following mandatory hearing, or later by the court at de novo hearing. Therefore, expect that your account will show a balance due when the order is entered. Your account will be credited upon submission of proof of any direct payments made following the filing of the petition, but before the order is entered.
Failure to appear, supply information, or to pay support under court orders, may result in administrative and/or court action to compel compliance. The rules of the Section are approved by the court and strict compliance will be required. If there is a court finding of willful failure to appear, or willful non-compliance with any court order, arrest and imprisonment for up to six (6) months and a fine not exceeding $1,000.00 may occur. The legislature allows these severe penalties to assure that parents meet their responsibility to support their children.
In any case where no agreed order is reached at the initial conference, your rights to a court hearing will attached to the Order recommended by the Conference Officer.
State law requires that you provide the DRS with your correct current mailing address. If you change address, law requires notice to the DRS and the other party in the case, within seven (7) days.
Child support is due from each parent, without regard to fault for separation of parents. Child support protects the child - not either parent. Therefore, be prepared to address child support issues without regard to marital fault.
Where spousal support is contested because of fault allegations, a complete conference will be conducted by the assigned Conference Officer. All financial matters will be examined at the initial conference. However, the Conference Officer does not decide liability in contested spousal support cases. The issue of liability in contested spousal support is listed for court for decision a hearing.
The support action does not decide custody of children, or visitation matters. The DRS is engaged only in setting and enforcing support orders. Custody and child visitation actions may be separately filed in the office of Clerk of Courts, Civil Division. For answers concerning custody and visitation, please consult your attorney or telephone or go to the Attorney Referral and Information Service.