Deadbeat Dad Law in Pennsylvania

By Rebekah Worsham

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An order to provide child support is issued by the courts as a means of ensuring the physical, emotional and financial security of a minor child. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has mandated a series of laws relating to the obligation of parents to pay reasonable support toward the care of their minor children. Fathers who willfully refuse to comply with a court order for child support may be prosecuted under Pennsylvania law for criminal non-support.

Orders for Support

Under Pennsylvania law, in order for a father to be held to an obligation to pay support, an order of support for a minor child must first be issued. A uniform order of support may be issued directly a Pennsylvania family court of jurisdiction or through order of a magistrate through a designated office of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Resources Division of Child Support Enforcement. The amount of support ordered is determined by the income of both parents and the number of children that are subject to support.

Means of Collection

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania permits a variety of methods to be used in the collection of court mandated child support orders. Under Pennsylvania law, the father or designated payer may have his income tax returns intercepted, wages garnished and driver's license suspended should an order for support go unpaid for longer than three months. In addition, liens may be applied against the payer's property, applications for the issuance of passports will be denied and reports of delinquency may be reported to national credit bureau reports until the payer brings current in full the amount owed in arrears.

Criminal Non-Support

The most serious sanctions, which may be applied under Pennsylvania law for willful refusal to pay a court mandated order of support, include the pursuance of criminal charges for criminal non-support and contempt of court. Pennsylvania Code Rule 1910.25-5 mandates that any individual who willfully refuses to abide by a court order to pay child support in accordance with the court's terms, although otherwise able to do so, may be jailed for contempt of court and criminal non-support for a period of time as deemed appropriate by the court.

Read More: Rights of a Non-custodial Parent Paying Child Support

Affect on Parental Rights

In addition to criminal and civil sanctions, willfully refusing to provide support for his minor child may lead to a termination of a father's parental rights as permitted under Pennsylvania state law. In order for a father's rights to be terminated as a result of non-support, the court must determine through clear and convincing evidence that the refusal of the father to provide financial support for the child is indicative of lack of regard or concern for the child's security and well-being. In that case, terminating the father's rights is therefore in the best interests of the child.