Rule 1910.19. Support. Modification. Termination. Guidelines as Substantial Change in Circumstances. Overpayments.
(a) A petition for modification or termination of an existing support order shall specifically aver the material and substantial change in circumstances upon which the petition is based. A new guideline amount resulting from new or revised support guidelines may constitute a material and substantial change in circumstances. The existence of additional income, income sources or assets identified through automated methods or otherwise may also constitute a material and substantial change in circumstances.
(b) The procedure upon the petition shall be in accordance with Rule 1910.10 et seq. After a party has filed a petition for modification of a child support order, the petition may not be withdrawn unless both parties consent or with leave of court. A petition for modification of spousal support or alimony pendente lite may be withdrawn without the consent of the other party or leave of court.
(c) Pursuant to a petition for modification, the trier of fact may modify or terminate the existing support order in any appropriate manner based upon the evidence presented without regard to which party filed the petition for modification. If the trier of fact finds that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances, the order may be increased or decreased depending upon the respective incomes of the parties, consistent with the support guidelines and existing law, and each partys custodial time with the child at the time the modification petition is heard.
(d) All charging orders for spousal support and alimony pendente lite shall terminate upon the death of the payee spouse.
(e) Within six months prior to the date a child who is the subject of a child support order reaches eighteen (18) years of age, the domestic relations section shall issue an emancipation inquiry and notice to the obligee, with a copy to the obligor, seeking the following information:
(1) confirmation of the childs date of birth, date of graduation or withdrawal from high school;
(2) whether the child has left the obligees household and, if so, the date of departure;
(3) the existence of any agreement between the parties requiring payments for the benefit of the child after the child has reached age eighteen (18) or graduated from high school; and
(4) any special needs of the child which may be a basis for continuing support for that child beyond the childs eighteenth birthday or graduation from high school, whichever is last to occur.
The notice shall advise the obligee that if the inquiry is not returned within thirty (30) days of mailing or if there is no agreement or the child does not have any special needs, the charging order may be modified or terminated by the court. In order to avoid overpayment, when no other children are subjects of the child support order and the obligee either does not return the emancipation inquiry within thirty (30) days of its mailing or does not assert grounds for continuing support for the child, then the domestic relations section shall administratively terminate the child support charging order without further proceedings on the last to occur of the date the last child reaches age eighteen (18) or graduates from high school. Termination of the charging order shall not affect any arrears accrued through the date of termination. The court shall have the authority to enter an order requiring the obligor to pay on arrears in an amount equal to the amount of the charging order until all arrears are paid.
If the order applies to another child or children and/or the obligee asserts that there is an agreement between the parties or that a child has special needs requiring continued support, then the domestic relations section may schedule a conference prior to the childs attaining age 18 or graduating from high school to determine if the charging order should be modified.
(f) Upon notice to the obligee, with a copy to the obligor, explaining the basis for the proposed modification or termination, the court may modify or terminate a charging order for support and remit any arrears, all without prejudice, when it appears to the court that:
(1) the order is no longer able to be enforced under state law; or
(2) the obligor is unable to pay, has no known income or assets and there is no reasonable prospect that the obligor will be able to pay in the foreseeable future.
The notice shall advise the obligee to contact the domestic relations section within 60 days of the date of the mailing of the notice if the obligee wishes to contest the proposed modification or termination. If the obligee objects, the domestic relations section shall schedule a conference to provide the obligee the opportunity to contest the proposed action. If the obligee does not respond to the notice or object to the proposed action, the court shall have the authority to modify or terminate the order and remit any arrears, without prejudice.
(1) Order in Effect. If there is an overpayment in an amount in excess of two months of the monthly support obligation and a charging order remains in effect, after notice to the parties as set forth below, the domestic relations section shall reduce the charging order by 20% or an amount sufficient to retire the overpayment by the time the charging order is terminated. The notice shall advise the parties to contact the domestic relations section within 30 days of the date of the mailing of the notice if either or both of them wishes to contest the proposed reduction of the charging order. If either party objects, the domestic relations section shall schedule a conference to provide the objecting party the opportunity to contest the proposed action. If neither party responds to the notice or objects to the proposed action, the domestic relations section shall have the authority to reduce the charging order.
(2) Order Terminated. If there is an overpayment in any amount and there is no charging order in effect, within one year of the termination of the charging order, the former obligor may file a petition with the domestic relations section seeking recovery of the overpayment. A copy shall be served upon the former obligee as original process. The domestic relations section shall schedule a conference on the petition, which shall be conducted consistent with the rules governing support actions. The domestic relations section shall have the authority to enter an order against the former obligee for the amount of the overpayment in a monthly amount to be determined by the trier of fact after consideration of the former obligees ability to pay.
Existence of Guidelines as Substantial Change in Circumstances. In its opinion in Newman v. Newman, 409 Pa. Super. Ct. 108, 597 A.2d 684 (Pa. Super. 1991), the Superior Court held that enactment of the guidelines does not constitute a substantial change in circumstance which could serve as the basis for modification of a support order. The amended rule allows the trier of fact to consider new or revised rules as a change in circumstances where the change in the guidelines, either by itself or in combination with other factors, is material and substantial.
The Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement System (PACSES) is electronically linked to a variety of governmental and private agencies and institutions. This linkage enables PACSES to immediately locate and identify an obligors income, income sources and assets. Rule 1910.19 is amended to provide that their identification through these automated methods provides a basis for modifying both the current support obligation and the rate of repayment on either past due or overdue support. Identification through means other than PACSES continues to provide the same basis for modification.
While identification of income sources or assets provides a basis for modification, this rule is not intended to prevent a court from ordering that the income or assets be frozen and seized under Rule 1910.26 pending the hearing on the petition for modification. Such relief remains available under Rule 1910.26 governing appropriate interim or special relief. See Rule 1910.1 Explanatory Comment. Nor is this rule intended to affect the courts ability to seize income or assets under Rule 1910.20 to secure an overdue support obligation.
Although support orders do not terminate automatically, many obligors are unaware of the necessity of filing a petition to terminate a child support order when the child becomes emancipated. As a result, old orders have continued to charge long after the subject child has become an adult. New subdivision (e) is intended to address this problem by giving the obligee notice of a proposed modification or termination of the order and the opportunity to object. If no objection is made, or if the obligee fails to respond with a reason to continue the order, the rule gives the court the authority to terminate or modify the charging order, depending upon whether or not other children are covered under the order.
New subdivision (f) addresses an increasing multiplicity of circumstances in which the continued existence of a court-ordered obligation of support is inconsistent with rules or law. An obligor with no known assets whose sole source of income is Supplemental Security Income or cash assistance cannot be ordered to pay support under Rule 1910.16-2. Likewise, an obligor with no verifiable income or assets whose institutionalization, incarceration or long-term disability precludes the payment of support renders the support order unenforceable and uncollectible, diminishing the perception of the court as a source of redress and relief. Often, the obligor is unable or unaware of the need to file for a modification or termination, or the parties abandon the action. In those circumstances, the courts are charged with managing dockets with no viable outcomes. Both the rules and the federal guidelines for child support under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act provide for circumstances under which a support order shall not be entered or under which a child support case may be closed. Subdivision (f) expands the authority of the courts to respond to case management issues brought about by changes in circumstances of the parties of which the courts become aware through the expansion of automated interfaces and data exchanges.
The provisions of this Rule 1910.19 amended January 27, 1993, effective immediately, 23 Pa.B. 701; amended December 2, 1994, effective March 1, 1995, 24 Pa.B. 6263; amended May 31, 2000, effective July 1, 2000, 30 Pa.B. 3155; amended June 5, 2001, effective immediately, 31 Pa.B. 3306; amended October 11, 2002, effective immediately, 32 Pa.B. 5263; amended May 19, 2006, effective immediately, 36 Pa.B. 2629; amended August 26, 2011, effective November 1, 2011, 41 Pa.B. 4847; amended September 19, 2011, effective October 31, 2011, 41 Pa.B. 5153; amended November 5, 2012, effective December 5, 2012, 42 Pa.B. 7091. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (358869) to (358872).
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