Rule 1910.11. Office Conference. Subsequent Proceedings. Order.
(a)(1) The office conference shall be conducted by a conference officer.
(2) Any lawyer serving as a conference officer employed by, or under contract with, a judicial district or appointed by the court shall not practice family law before a conference officer, hearing officer, permanent or standing master, or judge of the same judicial district.
Conference officers preside at office conferences under Rule 1910.11. Hearing officers preside at hearings under Rule 1910.12. The appointment of masters to hear actions in divorce or for annulment of marriage is authorized by Rule 1920.51.
(b) If either party fails to appear at the conference before the officer as directed by the court, the conference may proceed.
(c) At the conference, the parties shall furnish to the officer true copies of their most recent federal income tax returns, their pay stubs for the preceding six months, verification of child care expenses and proof of medical coverage that they may have or have available to them. In addition, the parties shall provide copies of their Income Statements and Expense Statements in the forms required by Pa.R.C.P. No. 1910.27(c) and completed as set forth in (1) and (2) of this subdivision.
See Pa.R.C.P. No. 1930.1(b). To the extent this rule applies to actions not governed by other legal authority regarding confidentiality of information and documents in support actions or that attorneys or unrepresented parties file support-related confidential information and documents in non-support actions (e.g., divorce, custody), the Case Records Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania shall apply.
(1) For cases which can be determined according to the guideline formula, the Income Statement must be completed and the Expense Statement at Rule 1910.27(c)(2)(A) should be completed if a party is claiming unusual needs and unusual fixed expenses that may warrant a deviation from the guideline amount of support pursuant to Rule 1910.16-5 or seeks apportionment of expenses pursuant to Rule 1910.16-6. In a support case that can be decided according to the guidelines, even if the support claim is raised in a divorce complaint, no expense form is needed unless a party claims unusual needs or unusual fixed expenses or seeks apportionment of expenses pursuant to Rule 1910.16-6. However, in the divorce action, the Expense Statement at Rule 1910.27(c)(2)(B) may be required.
(2) For cases which are decided according to Rule 1910.16-3.1, the Income Statement and the Expense Statement at Rule 1910.27(c)(2)(B) must be submitted.
(d)(1) The conference officer shall make a recommendation to the parties of an amount of support calculated in accordance with the guidelines.
(2) If an agreement for support is reached at the conference, the officer shall prepare a written order substantially in the form set forth in Rule 1910.27(e) and in conformity with the agreement for signature by the parties and submission to the court together with the officers recommendation for approval or disapproval. The court may enter the order in accordance with the agreement without hearing the parties.
(3) In all cases in which one or both parties are unrepresented, the parties must provide income information to the domestic relations section so that a guidelines calculation can be performed.
(4) In cases in which both parties are represented by counsel, the parties shall not be obligated to provide income information and the domestic relations section shall not be required to perform a guidelines calculation if the parties have reached an agreement about the amount of support and the amount of contribution to additional expenses.
(e) At the conclusion of the conference or not later than 10 days after the conference, the conference officer shall prepare a conference summary and furnish copies to the court and to both parties. The conference summary shall state:
(1) the facts upon which the parties agree;
(2) the contentions of the parties with respect to facts upon which they disagree; and
(3) the conference officers recommendation; if any, of
(i) the amount of support and by and for whom the support shall be paid; and
(ii) the effective date of any order.
(f) If an agreement for support is not reached at the conference, the court, without hearing the parties, shall enter an interim order calculated in accordance with the guidelines and substantially in the form set forth in Rule 1910.27(e). Each party shall be provided, either in person at the time of the conference or by mail, with a copy of the interim order and written notice that any party may, within twenty days after the date of receipt or the date of the mailing of the interim order, whichever occurs first, file a written demand with the domestic relations section for a hearing before the court.
(g) A demand for a hearing before the court shall not stay the interim order entered under subdivision (f) unless the court so directs.
(h) If no party demands a hearing before the court within the twenty day period, the interim order shall constitute a final order.
(i) If a demand is filed, there shall be a hearing de novo before the court. The domestic relations section shall schedule the hearing and give notice to the parties. The court shall hear the case and enter a final order substantially in the form set forth in Rule 1910.27(e) within sixty days from the date of the written demand for hearing.
(j)(1) Promptly after receipt of the notice of the scheduled hearing, a party may move the court for a separate listing where:
(i) there are complex questions of law, fact or both; or
(ii) the hearing will be protracted; or
(iii) the orderly administration of justice requires that the hearing be listed separately.
(2) If the motion for separate listing is granted, discovery shall be available in accordance with Rule 4001 et seq.
The rule relating to discovery in domestic relations matters generally is Rule 1930.5.
(k) No motion for post-trial relief may be filed to the final order of support.
The domestic relations office conference provided by Rule 1910.11 constitutes the heart of the support procedure. There are two primary advantages to the inclusion of a conference. First, in many cases the parties will agree upon an amount of support and a final order will be prepared, to be entered by the court, thus dispensing with a judicial hearing. Second, those cases which do go to hearing can proceed more quickly because the necessary factual information has already been gathered by the conference officer.
Subdivision (a)(2) prohibits certain officers of the court from practicing family law before fellow officers of the same court. These officers are the conference officer who is an attorney (Rule 1910.11), the hearing officer (Rule 1910.12), and the standing or permanent master who is employed by the court (Rule 1920.51). The amendments are not intended to apply to the attorney who is appointed occasionally to act as a master in a divorce action.
Subdivision (e)(3) makes clear that even if the parties agree on an amount of support, the conference officer is still empowered to recommend to the court that the agreement be disapproved. This provision is intended to protect the destitute spouse who might out of desperation agree to an amount of support that is unreasonably low or which would in effect bargain away the rights of the children. The officers disapproval of the agreement serves to prevent an inadequate order being entered unwittingly by the court.
The provision for an interim order in subdivision (f) serves two purposes. First, it ensures that the obligee will receive needed support for the period during which the judicial determination is sought. Second, it eliminates the motive of delay in seeking a judicial determination.
Because the guidelines are income driven, the trier of fact has little need for the expense information required in the Income and Expense Statement. Therefore in guideline cases, the rule no longer requires that expense information be provided. If a party feels that there are expenses so extraordinary that they merit consideration by the trier of fact, that party is free to provide the information. In cases decided according to Melzer v. Witsberger, 505 Pa. 462, 480 A.2d 991 (1984), living expenses are properly considered, and therefore must be presented on the Income and Expense Statement.
Rule 1910.11(e) is amended to eliminate the need for a party to request a copy of the conference summary.
Because the court is required to enter a guideline order on the basis of the conference officers recommendation, there is no need for (g)(2), which provided for a hearing before the court where an order was not entered within five days of the conference. It is eliminated accordingly.
Pursuant to subdivision (g), support payments are due and owing under the interim order which continues in effect until the court enters a final order after the hearing de novo. The provision for an interim order serves two purposes. First, it ensures that the obligee will receive needed support for the period during which the judicial determination is sought. Second, it eliminates the motive of delay in seeking a judicial determination. Therefore, the plaintiff and the dependent children are not prejudiced by allowing the court sixty days, rather than the original forty-five, in which to enter its final order.
The time for filing a written demand for a hearing before the court has been expanded from ten to twenty days. The purpose of this amendment is to provide ample opportunity for litigants and counsel to receive notice of the entry of the order, to assure commonwealth-wide consistency in calculation of time for filing and to conform to applicable general civil procedural rules.
The amendments reflect the separated Income Statement and Expense Statements in Rule 1910.27(c).
When the parties combined net income exceeds $30,000 per month, calculation of child support, spousal support and alimony pendente lite shall be pursuant to Rule 1910.16-3.1. Rule 1910.16-2(e) has been amended to eliminate the application of Melzer v. Witsberger, 505 Pa. 462, 480 A.2d 991 (1984), in high income child support cases.
The rule has been amended to require that income information be provided in all cases, unless both parties are represented in reaching an agreement, so that a guidelines calculation can be performed. The guidelines create a rebuttable presumption that the amount calculated pursuant to them is the correct amount, so there should be a calculation in every case. If parties agree to receive or to pay an order other than the guideline amount, they should know what that amount is so that they can enter an agreement knowingly. If both parties are represented by counsel, it is assumed that their entry into the agreement for an amount other than a guidelines amount is knowing as it is counsels responsibility to advise the parties. In addition, part of the mandatory quadrennial review of the support guidelines mandates a study of the number of cases in which the support amount ordered varies from the amount that would result from a guidelines calculation. Federal regulations presume that if a large percentage of cases vary from the guideline amount, then the guidelines are not uniform statewide.
The provisions of this Rule 1910.11 adopted April 23, 1981, effective July 22, 1981, 11 Pa.B. 1625; amended October 19, 1983, effective January 1, 1984, 13 Pa.B. 3629; amended November 7, 1988, effective January 1, 1989, 18 Pa.B. 5326; amended September 29, 1989, effective October 15, 1989, 19 Pa.B. 4451; amended March 30, 1994, effective July 1, 1994, 24 Pa.B. 1953; amended December 2, 1994, effective March 1, 1995, 24 Pa.B. 6263; amended September 8, 1995, effective January 1, 1996, 25 Pa.B. 4095; amended May 5, 1997, effective July 1, 1997, 27 Pa.B. 2532; amended May 31, 2000, effective July 1, 2000, 30 Pa.B. 3155; amended August 8, 2006, effective immediately, 36 Pa.B. 4709; amended November 8, 2006, effective February 6, 2007, 36 Pa.B. 7113; amended October 30, 2007, effective immediately, 37 Pa.B. 5976; amended January 12, 2010, effective May 12, 2010, 40 Pa.B. 586; amended August 26, 2011, effective November 1, 2011, 41 Pa.B. 4847; amended December 23, 2011, effective January 31, 2012, 42 Pa.B. 379, 545; amended July 2, 2014, effective in 30 days on August 1, 2014, 44 Pa.B. 4476; amended March 4, 2015, effective in 30 days on April 3, 2015, 45 Pa.B. 1354; amended January 5, 2018, effective January 6, 2018, 48 Pa.B. 477; amended June 1, 2018, effective July 1, 2018, 48 Pa.B. 3520. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (390085) to (390089).
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