When a Hearing Is Required

Failure to Agree
If the two parties cannot come to an agreement at the conference, a hearing will be scheduled. The officer may enter a temporary order, also 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 six to eight weeks after the conference.

At the Hearing
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.

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.

Exceptions to the Hearing Officer’s Recommendation
Either party may file an appeal (called exceptions to the recommendation), within 20 days of receiving the recommendation.

Exceptions allow the parties to argue before a judge of the Family Court that the support order is improper. This appearance before the judge is called Argument Court. 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 Argument Court. The parties or their attorneys file written summaries of their position (briefs) to the judge. On the date of the Argument Court hearing, the parties or their attorneys argue their clients' position, then, after reviewing all of the evidence, the judge gives a final decision.

Temporary Versus Final Court Orders
Please note: If exceptions are not filed within 20 days, the recommendation will become a final order of the court. If exceptions are filed, the recommendation will become a temporary order.