Economy Takes Toll on Orders for Support

January 2010Articles Philadelphia Bar Reporter

Unemployment claims have substantially increased in the past year due to the economic downturn. As a result, many support orders have been affected as job loss constitutes a change in circumstance that may warrant a reduction of a support order. Daniel J. Sulman, master in support, and James Gallagher, Domestic Relations Establishment supervisor, presented at the Family Law Section meeting on Dec. 7 on how the Philadelphia Family Court is handling the effect of unemployment in support actions.

Domestic Relations has a direct interface with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Employment to verify claimant’s unemployment benefits eligibility status, including the benefit amount and duration. Attachments of benefits for support purposes can be done automatically by Domestic Relations through this interface capability. Further, most employers are required by the federal government to report newly hired employees. Therefore, if a support payor receiving unemployment benefits later secures employment, Domestic Relations can and does find out the information and can issue a wage attachment for support to the new employer.