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Buddying Up for Child Support
During and after a divorce, some parents face the prospect of returning to court year after year to obtain the support their children deserve. Hiring a lawyer for the constant court appearances becomes expensive. Frequently, the attorney's fees coupled with the parent's loss of work time, outweighs any additional child support award. This high cost results in the parent deciding, as a practical matter, to forgo pursuing the support action.
Although courts are required to provide legal counsel for parents seeking support for their children, such counsel is not always "full service" and it is often administered in a perfunctory manner. Many times, such counsel is made available in the courtroom, at the last minute, leaving the client feeling as if their issues have not been thoroughly addressed.
In light of the above, in Philadelphia County, for example, practically all of the Plaintiffs in child support cases before the Court, appear "pro se" (i.e., without representation). Representing oneself can be risky, stressful, and frustrating. Nonetheless, the petitioner parent seeking support, who finds themselves in this situation can do something about the stress and frustration with the help of others in the same situation; specifically, they can "buddy up" for moral support, technical assistance, and information sharing in their pursuit of child support. This buddy system makes the child support enforcement and modification process more effective as well as less humiliating, frustrating, and painful.
There are many ways that "support court buddies" can help each other. For example, together, support court buddies can (a) review the child support guidelines and calculate the guideline amount, and (b) identify and organize additional expenses a former spouse can be ordered to pay over and above the guideline amount. Being prepared is an important part of actually obtaining the support to which children are entitled. Parents are often unprepared and disorganized when they go to Court, e.g., they do not have receipts for extra expenses, such as daycare, tutoring, sports equipment, etc. With the buddy system, once the extra expenses have been identified and the guideline support amount is calculated, the parent can rehearse their position with their buddy for eventual presentation to the master or judge. This rehearsal effort helps the parent prepare for Court and increases the likelihood of presenting a coherent position for child support.
As an additional example, together, support court buddies can offer psychological support by going to court with the parent. This can be extremely helpful during the long wait outside the courtroom, during which time the parent can relieve stress by laughing and joking with their buddy (which may have the added benefit of catching their ex-spouse off guard). Buddies can also assist in negotiations while the parent is waiting to be heard by the Court and, once in Court, they can help ensure that all issues are raised and addressed.
Essentially, some people are good at math, others are good at writing, and still others are simply good on their feet. By taking advantage of the child support buddy system, these skills can be pooled so that parents can make a more impressive and, therefore, successful appearance before the Court.
Parents interested in networking with other parents having child support difficulties should contact their community centers and reach out to their group of friends as possible resources. These parties may provide an introduction to other parents in search of child support buddies, as well as information on obtaining copies of the child support guidelines and other child support literature. These valuable resources will help the parent seeking child support be organized and prepared for their day in Court.
Pennsylvania grants a no-fault divorce when both spouses agree to divorce and file an affidavit that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The court may grant a divorce 90 days after filing. If one spouse files an affidavit that the couple has lived apart for at least two years and that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court may grant a divorce based on those circumstances.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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