Along with the recent revision to the standing provision of Rule 1910.3, the Pennsylvania legislation also made revisions to Rule 1910.19, which addresses the relatively rare, but frustrating issue of support overpayments.
Addressing overpayments related to child or spousal support can be frustrating for the party paying support (the “payor” or “obligor”) because of the disparity in attitude toward overpayments compared to people who do not pay their support on time or at all. For instance, if they were to owe support (be in “arrears”), their tax return would get intercepted, they couldn’t buy or sell a house without satisfying the debt, or they may have other enforcement remedies taken against them.
The policy of the Domestic Relations Office (“DRO”) for overpayments, however, is that it is preferable to carry an overpayment until the support obligation ends. This is policy is reasonable and logical, but it does raise two questions for the payor:
1) How do I stop the order from charging; and
2) How do I get the overpayment returned.
The first question received some minor tweaking to Rule 1910.19 which went into effect October 31, 2011. DRO will make an emancipation inquiry within 6 months of the date the child is to turn 18 years of age. If the notice is not returned to DRO within a six (6) month time frame and there is overpayment on the books then DRO shall administratively terminate the child support order on the perspective date of emancipation (18 years of age and graduated from High School).
Now that the Order has been stopped, the next question is to figure out to have the overpayment returned to the payor. Rule 1910(g)(1) and (g)(2) now allow a procedure to accomplish just that:
Section (g)(1) allows that when a charging order is in effect, DRO will reduce the Order by 20% until the overpayment is discharged. The payee can contest this reduction and request a hearing;
Section (g)(2) provides that if there is no charging order in effect (for example, it has been terminated due to emancipation), the payor may petition DRO to recover the overpayment. DRO has, within their discretion, the authority to enter an Order against the payee to pay the overpayment on a monthly payment schedule – basically, a support order in reverse.
Overall, this is a step in the right direction for correcting a procedural conundrum for DRO. While the number of people who will utilize these rules may pale in comparison to those payors who fail to satisfy their support obligations, both payors and payees are entitled to equal opportunity in addressing their claims.