Child & Spousal Support Reference

Domestic Relations Section is part of the McKean County Court of Common Pleas.The Domestic Relations Section is the part of the court system that is there to help you work out problems such support for children and spouses, paternity establishment and the establishment and enforcement of support orders.

Our site explains how the Domestic Relations Section works. Although it has other duties, the Domestic Relations Section is mainly responsible for working with families to establish and collect support for children and spouses.

When the people involved, whom the court refers to as "the parties", are unable to agree about support, the Domestic Relations staff will recommend an amount of money, insurance coverage, etc. to the parties and to the Judges of the Court. These recommendations are based on the law and on much training and experience of the staff.


Our Location
16975 Route 6
Smethport, PA 16749


Main Number: (814) 887-3366 or 1-800-482-1280, Ext. 288 (to reach our receptionist)

IVR: (814) 887-3377 (computer information - touch-tone service required)

Fax Number: (814) 887-5090

You may call Domestic Relations to speak to our staff about your case at any time Monday through Friday 8:30 AM - 4:15 PM. Or you may come to Domestic Relations and be seen by a member of our staff between 8:30 AM and 4:15PM.  Our staff can help explain how your support order affects you, research your case if there are problems, and mail forms or other information if necessary. We can also help explain how support payments are applied to your account, however, we recommend that clients view our web site, where there is a detailed description of how Domestic Relations' Computer System - PACSES - automates the distribution of support payments.

Please supply your 9 digit PACSES case number and/or Social Security number for all telephone calls, letters and office appearances. Your "9 digit PACSES case number" appears on every piece of mail and support check you receive from the Domestic Relations Section.


Representation By An Attorney

In all matters scheduled by the Domestic Relations Section, you have a right to have an attorney present, but it is not required. Attorneys can give you helpful advice about legal matters related to your case. The decision is yours as to whether or not you choose to have an attorney with you when you come to Domestic Relations.

Occasionally, a person may be provided an attorney by the Court at no charge. This most often happens when cases involve parties who are in different states or counties and in cases in which there is a question about the paternity (who the father is) of the child.

If you want to have a lawyer, but do not know one, you may seek one through the McKean County Bar Association.   A list of those attorneys can be requested from the McKean County Prothonotary’s Office (814) 887-3270.

Preparing For Your Office Visit (Getting Ready)

  1. Make sure you know exactly where you are to appear, and arrive on time.
  2. Be sure to bring whatever mail you have received from Domestic Relations with you when you come to the office.
  3. Know and understand the reasons why you are there, and be prepared to tell Domestic Relations staff exactly what you are asking for.
  4. Always be honest. Failing to tell the truth is a crime, and could cause the Domestic Relations staff to doubt your truthfulness in general.
  5. Although these matters may be very upsetting to you, focus your attention on the purpose of your appearance. Present the facts as you know them. Remember, staff members are here to serve both parties, and are trying to do what is in the best interest of all.
  6. Bring all information with you that will help to prove your position (receipts, bills, income information, etc.).
  7. Bring all completed forms and all papers and letters which the court may have sent you in advance.
  8. Make two (2) copies of all materials you bring with you. One copy will be for the Domestic Relations files and one copy for the other party.
  9. Always keep a file or special envelope with all your records.

Conference and Hearing

Once a support complaint has been "filed" (which means the paperwork is completed and officially recorded), both parties will receive "conference notices" (an official order by the court to attend the conference), as well as various forms requiring information. On the day of the conference you should report to Domestic Relations at least fifteen minutes before the scheduled time of your conference, bringing with you the information you were directed to bring (see below). Upon arriving for your conference, you will be required to “check in” with our security officer who will then ask you to go through the metal detector.  You will then be instructed to report to the receptionist in Domestic Relations.  Once both parties have arrived, your case will be heard. Depending upon individual circumstances, even if one party fails to appear, the case may proceed. (See "If Only One Party Appears.") The conference may last up to one hour.

Things to Bring to the Conference

Both parties will be ordered to bring their previous year’s income tax returns and payroll stubs for the past six months. They should also bring medical insurance cards, insurance policy numbers, benefits booklets, and any other information that will help the officer make the best decision. Self-employed people must bring business records and financial statements. People who receive unemployment or worker’s compensation disability or pension benefits must bring proof of the amount they receive. You will have received in the mail, along with the court hearing notice, an income and an expense statement (income is how much you earn; expense is how it is spent). These forms must be filled out and brought with you to the conference.  Please do not bring children to the conference unless paternity of the child needs to be established.

What Happens at the Conference

A Domestic Relations conference officer will guide you through the conference. The purpose of the conference is to give the parties an opportunity to decide what amount and what type of support will be paid. The conference officer will use the income information which the parties and their employers have provided to determine the net (after taxes) income of each party. The amount of support each party may be required to pay is based mostly on both parties' net monthly incomes, how much each is capable of earning, and/or reasonable needs.

In Pennsylvania, support amounts are determined by using written support guidelines, which are the same in all counties within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Click here to get a copy of the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines.

Although guidelines are used to determine the support amount, every case is also affected by individual circumstances. Some of the items which may be considered in deciding a support amount are:

  1. MONTHLY NET INCOME - This is determined by averaging the monthly gross income (before taxes) over a six month period (when possible), and subtracting from it the mandatory (must be taken) deductions. Monthly gross income includes overtime, tips, bonuses and commissions. Federal, state, and local taxes, social security deductions, medical insurance costs that benefit the children and other spouse, mandatory retirement contributions and union dues are subtracted from gross income to arrive at the net monthly income.
  2. FLUCTUATING (CHANGING) INCOME - Adjustments in support orders will not be made for normal changes in earnings. Support orders for seasonal employees such as construction workers, are ordinarily based on an average of one year’s earnings.
  3. EARNING CAPACITY - In certain circumstances, if a party who is able to work chooses on his or her own a lower paying job or fails to work at all, he or she will be considered to have an income equal to his/her earning potential. This also may be true when a party voluntarily (on his or her own) quits work or is fired for misconduct.
  4. RETROACTIVE EFFECT - Support orders are usually made retroactive (go back) to the date that the support complaint is started.Credit may be given for voluntary payments made between the filing date and the date of the support order.Proof may be required to show that these voluntary payments were made. Therefore, it is suggested that any voluntary payments be made by check.  The court will decide the retroactive arrears (amount of back support owed) and require a payment on the arrears in addition to the payment of the regular support amount.
  5. DEVIATION (ADJUSTMENT) - The guideline figures may be adjusted for circumstances such as unusually high fixed bills, the age of the children, a duty to support other children and/or spouse, etc.
  6. MORTGAGE PAYMENT - The guidelines assume that the spouse who is living in the marital residence (the family home) will be solely responsible for the mortgage payment, real estate taxes and homeowner’s insurance. The support order is based on this belief, unless it actually states otherwise. Therefore, if the party who is NOT living in the home is paying the mortgage, real estate taxes or insurance, and is found to owe support to the party who is living in the home, credit may be given for paying those expenses.
  7. CHILD CARE EXPENSES – Reasonable child care costs are the responsibility of both parents. The guidelines provide that child care expenses be divided proportionately between the parties based upon their incomes.
  8. PRIVATE SCHOOL EXPENSES - The support guidelines do not consider the costs of private school tuition. If a private school is a reasonable need of the child because of the child’s special needs, or the parties’ prior standard of living, the support award may be adjusted so that the parents share the expense proportionate to the parties' incomes.
  9. DIRECT CONTRIBUTION OF NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT - The support guidelines assume that the non-custodial parent has regular contact with his/her child. Therefore, adjustments to the guidelines will only be considered if the defendant spends an unusually great or small amount of time with the child or pays an unusually high or low amount of the expenses of the child (i.e. if the defendant has the child overnight 40% of the time or more) or pays an unusually high or low amount of the expenses of the child.
  10. MEDICAL SUPPORT - The law requires that both parties provide medical support for the children, if able. Therefore, when a support Order is issued through Domestic Relations, it may require the plaintiff and the defendant to have medical insurance for the children/plaintiff and to pay part of the medical costs not covered by insurance. Most recent support orders provide for medical support. Also, the law requires that uncovered medical expenses be divided proportionally between the parties according to their incomes. However, the support guidelines assume that the first $250.00 per person of un-reimbursed medical expenses will be paid by the custodial parent. If your Order does not include it, you may petition to have your Order modified (changed) to add medical support.
  11. COLLEGE EXPENSES FOR ADULT CHILDREN - In the past, college support was allowed by case law for adult children.  This case law was overturned in the case of Blue v. Blue. The Legislature, in response to the Court's decision in Blue, enacted legislation that took effect June 2, 1993. On October 10, 1995 this statute was declared unconstitutional. Therefore, the Domestic Relations Section can pursue college support for adult children only in limited circumstances. For further information, please contact an attorney.
  12. EFFECT ON T.A.N.F. RECIPIENT (a person who receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families receives a welfare grant for a child) – The Department of Public Welfare (DPW) requires everyone who receives a T.A.N.F. grant to file for support against the non-custodial parent. The person who receives T.A.N.F. must assign (give over) his or her rights to support to the DPW. This means that all money collected from the non-custodial parent on the support order will be turned over to the DPW. If the support award is higher than the total benefits received from the DPW, then the custodial parent and children may no longer receive public assistance and will directly receive all money from the support order. Any arrears (back support) owing to DPW at the time the custodial parent takes the children off welfare must still be paid to the DPW.

Establishing Paternity

If an alleged father (the man who was named as father) appears at a support conference and denies that he is the father of the child, the conference can go no further until paternity is established. (Paternity tests generally are not allowed for a child born while the parties are married to each other.) If appropriate, the Domestic Relations Section will arrange for the parties and the child to have paternity testing by a medical technician at the Domestic Relations Section to test whether or not the man is the father of the child.

The laboratory will test the genetic samples to determine how likely it is that the man is the father. After the testing is completed, the results of the tests are sent to both parties (we cannot give the results of the testing to you over the phone).  A support conference will then be scheduled at a later date to determine the amount of support.
If the man is found to be the father by the Court, the Court will usually order that he pay for the genetic test costs.

If Only One Party Appears

If the plaintiff (the person asking for support) fails to appear for a scheduled conference, the case may be dismissed. However, if the plaintiff is on public assistance, the case will continue in his/her absence and the Department of Public Welfare will be notified that the plaintiff has failed to cooperate. This could result in the plaintiff being taken off public assistance.

If the Domestic Relations Section was given the address of the defendant’s employer before the conference or hearing, the income information will be requested directly from that employer. This provides the necessary "proof of earnings".
Before a support order can be entered, the law requires proof that the person against whom the support claim is made (the defendant) has been given notice of the claim and a date to come to a conference or hearing. If receipt of that notice can be proven and the defendant (the person being asked to pay support) fails to appear, and if it has been determined how much the defendant earns, a support order may be entered. Otherwise, the proceedings will be delayed, and the defendant may be sent a notice of warrant for arrest for his or her failure to appear.



If the two parties cannot come to an agreement at the conference, a hearing will be scheduled.  The officer may enter a temporary Order called an Interim Order, for 100% of the recommended amount if this is a new case. The support case then will be scheduled to be heard by a hearing officer. A hearing officer is a lawyer appointed by the judges of the Family Court to take testimony on support cases,and make decisions regarding the amount of support.The hearing will usually be held about four to six weeks after the conference.

The hearing will be tape recorded, and all rules of court will apply. The hearing officer will review the conference officer’s recommendation and notes, take testimony if necessary, review documents, and apply the guidelines and the law of Pennsylvania. Factors previously described in this manual will be taken into account. Following the hearing, and after considering the issues, the hearing officer’s recommendation will be mailed to the parties. The recommendation will contain the amount of support the defendant is to pay and will also contain any other issues related to support.

Either party may file an appeal (called exceptions to the recommendation), within twenty (20) days of receiving the recommendation.

Exceptions to the Hearing Officer’s Recommendation

Either party may file exceptions (within 20 days) to the hearing officer’s recommendation. Exceptions allow the parties to argue before a Judge of the McKean County Court of Common Pleas that the support Order is improper. This appearance before the Judge is called an "Exceptions Hearing". Meanwhile, the hearing officer’s recommendation becomes an order of court, which both parties must follow until the Judge rules on the case and enters the final order.

Usually exceptions are filed by one or both of the parties’ attorneys, but it is possible to file them yourself. If you file exceptions, and the hearing was recorded, you must pay for the tape of the recorded hearing to be transcribed (typed). Once the tape is transcribed, the Domestic Relations Section schedules a hearing date for the Exceptions. The parties or their attorneys file written summaries of their position (briefs) to the judge. On the date of the Exceptions Hearing, the parties or their attorneys argue their clients' position, then, after reviewing all of the evidence, the judge gives a final decision.


Enforcement of Support Orders

There are several methods which can be used to enforce a support order. Effective July 1, 1990 all cases automatically require an income withholding order.This is a court order which directs the defendant’s employer to subtract the amount of support from the defendant’s paycheck and pay this amount directly to the Pennsylvania Support Collection and Disbursement Unit (SCDU) within 10 days.  Income withholding orders also can be used on unemployment compensation, worker’s disability, and some pension benefits.

If payments are not being made despite the income withholding order, or if the defendant is not paying the full amount as ordered, the case is eligible for enforcement action. A notice of non-compliance is mailed monthly to defendants who fail to make regular support payments or have not made a payment in 30 days.

This notice reminds the defendant of his or her duty to pay, and of the legal problems caused by failure to pay support. If the defendant continues to not make payments, he or she is in violation of the court Order, and contempt of court procedures may be started. This includes a Contempt Conference to determine whether or not the defendant is in contempt of Court. Through these contempt proceedings a defendant can be ordered to make a lump sum payment, or be put in jail by order of a Judge after a finding of willful contempt at a Contempt Hearing.

Federal and State Tax Refund Offset Program:  Your federal and state income tax refunds can be taken if you owe overdue child support. The Domestic Relations Section will automatically apply for an IRS and State Tax Refund Intercept on all qualifying cases. To qualify for the IRS intercept program, all of the following eligibility requirements must be met:

  1. Only child support can be collected. Your support order must be for child support only. However, spousal support may be included if the same order includes support for both spouse and child(ren).
  2. There must be at least $500.00 in past-due child support payments (or $150.00 if arrears owed to welfare) and 1 month of arrears (or 3 months of arrears if arrears are owed to welfare) for a case to qualify for IRS Intercept. Any money owed to welfare will be paid first from any IRS tax refund received. "Retroactive" arrears (those arrears which occur between the time the case is started and the time the money Order is entered) cannot be collected by IRS Tax Refund Intercept.  Each month, the PACSES system automatically submits eligible cases for IRS Intercept.
  3. The child must be under 18 years of age as of December 31st of the tax year you are applying for.
  4. We must have the correct social security number of the person who owes the child support payments.

If you have any questions about the IRS intercept program, write:

Attn: IRS Intercept Coordinator
McKean County Domestic Relations
16975 Route 6
Smethport, PA  16749
or call: (814) 887-3366

If a defendant owes back support (arrears) Domestic Relations may report him or her to the Credit Bureau. The plaintiff does not have to request this action, because it is done automatically by the PACSES system.   In order for this to happen the defendant must be at least 60 days in arrears. The defendant’s arrears are then reported to the credit bureau. This, in turn, affects the defendant’s credit rating.  P>

Any past due support becomes a lien automatically. If the person who owes the support is buying, selling, or refinancing real property and owes past due support, the automatically resulting lien would normally have to be paid in full before he or she would be allowed to buy, sell, or refinance the property. Title companies, banks, and mortgage companies routinely contact the Domestic Relations Section to verify if the person involved in a real estate transaction owes any past due support, and if so, how much.

According to law, any child support payment that is not paid when due automatically becomes a judgment after thirty (30) days. This means that the judgment will have full force and effect like any other judgment of court, and will be enforceable in this or any other state. This judgment will end when all past due support has been paid. Domestic Relations keeps an account of all support payments made under court Order. The records of the Domestic Relations are used to determine the amount of the judgment.

A judgment becomes a lien against property and can be enforced for past due support against such defendants who are selling or refinancing property. That lien would normally have to be paid in full before they would be allowed to sell or refinance their property.
Note: Also, Title companies are required to receive a certification of balances due.
Driver's License Suspension: If you owe at least three months of support and a court has not ordered income withholding, you may have the following licenses suspended, denied, or not renewed:

- Driver’s license
- Commercial driver’s license
- Professional or occupational license
- Recreational license

Passport Denial:The United States Department of State can deny the issuance or renewal of a passport or revoke a passport if you have child support arrears over $2,500. 

Lottery Intercept:  Your lottery winnings of $2,500 or more can be collected if you owe overdue child support.

Intercept of Workers Compensation and Lump Sum Personal Injury Payment:  The amount of overdue child support you owe may be taken from you settlement or benefits.

The above information describes actions Domestic Relations may take to enforce a child support order. Each child support case has individual differences that may require special attention by a qualified professional at the Domestic Relations Section.  If you have questions about your case or want more information about any of the enforcement measures described above, contact our office during normal business

Modifying (Changing) a Support Order

If the parties agree to modify (change) their support order they may sign and file an agreement for modification at Domestic Relations. If there is no agreement, one of the parties may file a "Petition to Modify", asking the Court to schedule the matter for a conference to determine whether or not the support Order should be changed.

If you want to modify (change) an existing order (and the other party does not agree) you must file a petition through the Domestic Relations Section. You may file a petition on your own, however, if you have an attorney of record filed with the McKean County Prothonotary’s Office, you will need to consult your attorney. This petition must state the reason that you are requesting a change in the support Order.  To file a petition to modify you may either make an appointment to meet with the intake officer or you may call our office and request a petition be mailed to you.  There is a filing fee of $25 per case/petition, which is required at the time the petition is filed with the Prothonotary’s Office.

A support order can be changed by petition only if there has been a substantial  change of circumstances(important events or problems that happened) since the order was made. Some reasons why your support Order may be changed are:

  1. The parties have reconciled (gotten back together) and are living together.
  2. The parties have reached an agreement and the plaintiff (the person receiving child support) is not on public assistance.
  3. The income of one or both parties has greatly increased or decreased.
  4. There are extraordinary (unusual) and ongoing medical expenses that were not present at the time the last order was made.
  5. A child on the support order is over eighteen years old and is no longer attending school.
  6. The increased age of the child or other factors have caused increased expenses.
  7. A.P.L. or spousal support is no longer required because a final decree in divorce has been granted, and all economic claims have been settled.
Changes to support orders usually become effective no earlier than the date that the modification petition is filed. This means that, unless you were unable to file the modification petition because of happenings that were beyond your control, changes to support orders cannot be applied to the time period before you filed the petition. Therefore, it is very important for the parties to petition the court as soon as possible after experiencing a change in circumstances. Any changes to a support order will be retroactive (go back) to the date the Petition to Modify was started, unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties.

Parties may suspend (stop) a support order at any time if they both agree, as long as the children are not on welfare. If the parties do not agree, one of them may petition to have the support order suspended. To suspend the order the parties may come to Domestic Relations and sign a suspension order. The support order will be stopped once the suspension order is signed by a Judge.

If a petition must be filed to request that the order be suspended, a conference may be held to make that decision.

Review of a Support Order

According to federal regulations, you are entitled to (have a right to) a review of your case once every three years.  Parties may request a review of their order every three years, to determine if a change in their order would be proper.  You must file a petition to request a "three year review."  Forms for review are available at the Domestic Relations Office.  If your case is eligible, you may have to come to a Review Hearing.

Medical Support

What is Medical Support?

The term "Medical" includes reasonable expenses for medically necessary services and supplies such as:
Co-pays and Deductibles (for Orders effective 4/1/99)

  • Surgical
  • Dental
  • Optical Services
  • Orthodontics (for Orders effective 4/1/99)
  • Prescriptions

Services that are NOT Covered (unless specifically stated in your Order) are:

  • Chiropractic Services
  • Cosmetic Surgery
  • Psychiatric/Psychological Services

Guidelines for Medical Coverage

Parties must provide each other with the following:

  1. Name of the health care coverage provider(s);
  2. Any applicable identification numbers or cards;
  3. Address to which claims should be mailed;
  4. All documentation regarding guidelines and participating health care providers, including a copy of the benefit booklet or coverage contract.
  5. Five copies of any claim forms.

If the child or spouse receives Medical Assistance (ACCESS, Mercy or other State funded medical coverage) parties may be required to provide health insurance.

Parties may be responsible for birth related expenses.

Communication and Cooperation Between Parties is Essential!

How to get payments for medical expenses

  • Parties must follow the insurance company rules. All bills must be submitted to all available insurance plans. If a claim is denied by the insurance company for failure to follow their rules, the other party cannot be made responsible for the share of the cost.
  • Documentation must be provided to show that the first $250.00 per person/per calendar year has been met.
  • The party with the Medical bills should send copies of the bills and insurance statement to the other party by regular mail. The exact amount owed and to whom, should be clearly stated.  (Make sure that you keep a copy of all bills and correspondence for your records.)
  • The party who is responsible to pay the bill should send the payment to the other party by check or money order so payment can be verified.
Enforcement of medical payment

If full payment or payment arrangements have not been made within 30 days, notify the Domestic Relations Section by sending:

  • Copies of the medical bills
  • Insurance company statements 
  • Verification that the $250.00 per person/per calendar year deductible was paid. 
  • Copy any correspondence regarding medical bills
  • Completed MEDICAL DATA SHEET  (available through Domestic Relations)

Completed Medical Data Sheets and supporting documentation should be mailed to :

McKean County Domestic Relations Section
500 West Main Street
Smethport, Pennsylvania 16749

The Domestic Relations Section will contact the party responsible for payment and establish a schedule for repayment or schedule an enforcement hearing.

This guide is intended to be instructive as to the general procedures of the McKean County Domestic Relations Section and should be used for informational purposes only.

Interstate Cases: UIFSA

Regardless of where the parties live, the simplest way for us to administer a support case is as a "local case." In a "local case", the local court - the McKean County Court of Common Pleas, for example - is the "single point of contact" for the parties in resolving all support issues pertaining to the administration of the support order.

However, although support cases can - and generally should - be administered as "local cases" (even if one of the parties lives out-of-state), there are times when it is better - even necessary - to administer a case as an "Interstate Case." When administering a support case as an Interstate case, another Court or tribunal is involved.  Administration of Interstate cases is governed by legal rules established by U.I.F.S.A. (The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act).

U.I.F.S.A. law has been adopted by all of the U.S. States and Territories, including Puerto Rico and Guam.


Statement of Purpose of the McKean County Court of Common Pleas including the McKean County Domestic Relations Section:

The purpose of the Court is to justly decide the controversies presented.  We do that by….

  • Treating all people with dignity, courtesy, civility, and respect.
  • Listening carefully, considering conscientiously, and deciding wisely.
  • Applying the law with impartiality and integrity.
  • Providing a forum that is fair, in a setting that is dignified, safe, and clean.
  • Recognizing the Court’s responsibility to protect the citizens.
  • Acknowledging the Court’s duty to encourage where possible, and to compel where appropriate, every citizen to carry out the responsibilities owed to one’s family, community, state, and nation.
Because ultimate justice cannot occur without eventual reconciliation, all court staff will attempt to create an environment in which reconciliation can take place.