An important change to the Pennsylvania Support Code will go into effect very soon. Rule 1910.3 identifies those individuals who are allowed to bring child support actions and beginning November 1st the Rule will be expanded to allow “any person who may owe a duty of support to a child or spouse” to initiate a custody action.
This language definitively establishes that either party may begin a support action and eliminates some of the ambiguity as to whether a support action must be filed the obligee (the person entitled to receive support). The way the Rule was written, it could be interpreted that any person who has custody – even partial custody – could initiate the support action regardless of whether they were to be the payor or the payee. This put the Domestic Relations Offices and Court in the position of having a party listed as Plaintiff, but whom is in reality should be the obligor. Payor’s filing to start support actions tended to cause administrative confusion for the Courts, so whether or not the action moved forward usually depended on whether the non-filing payee party was willing to let it move forward.
One would assume that any one owed support would file for it, but there could be strategic reasons for holding off on filing for support, especially if there was an alternative source of income for the obligee, or if the obligee was seeking to establish standing to file for support in a more advantageous support jurisdiction. The consequence was that a party who knows they will owe support could not effectively address the situation without the obligee taking the appropriate steps to file and schedule a support conference.
Thanks to this language revision and the addition of Subparagraph (b), any party can initiate the action and the trier of fact will be the one who decides who is the obligee and who is the obligor. As stated in the “Explanatory Comment” the new category recognizes that some people “may want to start paying spousal support or alimony pendente lite to the obligee as soon as possible to avoid the accumulation of retroactive arrears…”
This revised rule is, ultimately, a common sense shift to ensure that any one with a support entitlement or obligation has access to the courts and can have that obligation addressed without any delay or detriment to the child/ren or spouse subject to the Order.