PA Appellate Cases Involving Child Support
- Chapman-Rolle v. Rolle – In high income – Melzer cases, custodial parent will be awarded presumptive minimum of child support based upon the PA Support Guidelines unless custodial parent can prove (through documentation or testimony )that the reasonable needs of the children are greater than the presumptive minimum. In accessing the children’s reasonable needs, the custodial parent must separate the expenses for the children from those of the custodial parent.
- Chen v. Chen – PA Supreme Court ruled that a child can not seek to intervene in the parents’ legal matters to attempt to enforce the terms of the parents’ agreement regarding PA child support as set forth in their marriage or property settlement agreement.
- Gibbons v. Kugle – Pennsylvania Superior Court found that father who was ordered to pay parochial school tuition for child who had never previously attended private school was appropriate when family court found child would benefit from private school due to fighting and other problems in child’s previous public school and private school costs are considered within the standard of living or station in life of family of the family based upon economic factors prior to the parties’ separation.
- Saunders v. Saunders – PA Superior Court upheld family court’s order denying father’s request for child support pursuant to the Colonna v. Colonna case which held that the court may award child support to the non-custodial parent when the custodial parent has a significantly greater income and support to the non-custodial parent is necessary to provide adequate housing and amenities for the children while in the non-custodial parent’s care.
- Grigoruk v. Grigoruk – The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that it was proper to increase the amount of child support paid by the father where the mother’s income decreased significantly when she was fired from her former job for willful misconduct. It was undisputed by the father that the mother’s job loss was not due to her effort to avoid her support obligation and the Superior Court found that the mother had conducted an adequate job search and accepted a lower paying position to mitigate her decrease in earnings.
- Bradford County CYS v. Moon – The PA Superior Court affirmed an order directing mother to pay one-half of the costs for the placement for her son by Children and Youth Services in a foster setting.
- N.C. v. M.H. – Wife who had affair during marriage and gave birth to a child that was raised by wife and her husband for 10 years was not permitted to obtain child support from her husband when he was not the biological father, wife hid her affair from her husband, and the parties were divorcing. The Superior Court found that neither the presumption of paternity of a child born during the marriage nor paternity by estoppel should be applied in this case.
- Nash v. Kerbster – Under recent changes to the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, the PA Superior Court held that an incarcerated parent is entitled to a hearing on whether a modification of child support is justified given the parent’s incarceration and a lack of verifiable income or assets.
- Bulgarelli v. Bulgarelli – This case involved an analysis of child support under the high income analysis (greater than $20,000 net per month) pursuant to the case of Melzer v. Witsberger. The Superior Court held that when the parents are sharing custody, in a high income support case the parents’ individual household expenses for the children while in their care are already reduced and reflected on the parties’ household budget and that it would be inappropriate to apply the deviation pursuant to the PA Child Support Guidelines formula for shared custody cases. The case sets forth a wonderful analysis of the presumptive minimum formula in high income child support cases as well as how the reasonable needs of the parents and children is calculated, and a support order is fashioned by the court.
- R.C. V. J.S. – The Pennsylvania Superior Court determined that it is improper to suspend child support orders during periods of transitory in-patient treatment outside the home given that the custodial parent still must maintain an appropriate residence in anticipation of the child’s eventual return. While this case applied to a temporary hospitalization, the case also cited examples such as when the minor child is in temporary placement due to a juvenile court order removing the child from the home.
- Wieland v. Wieland v. Dillon, Jr. – The mother of the child was married, but separated from her husband when the child was born. The mother named her then boyfriend as the father on the birth certificate and allowed the boyfriend to raise the child for the next several years. After the relationship with the boyfriend ended, the mother filed a complaint for support against her former husband without the former boyfriend’s knowledge, and paternity testing revealed that the former husband was the child’s biological father. The former boyfriend and ex-husband both sought to have the former boyfriend declared the legal father under a paternity by estoppel argument. The court ruled that since the mother had informed the child of the DNA results, paternity by estoppel would not be applied and the biological father would be forced to pay support. The Superior Court however noted that its decision would not impact any potential child custody litigation.
- Style v. Shaub – Father of child over age 18 not liable to support child who has history of ADHD and other problems when testimony presented that adult child was capable of working at least minimum wage job.
- Sirio v. Sirio – The PA Superior Court reviewed case involving high-income Melzer analysis for child support. PA Superior Court held that the Hearing Officer should have considered the mother’s counsel fee request 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 4351 which allows awarded of counsel fees to the plaintiff in a support action. The award of counsel fees because of Father’s obdurate, vexatious or dilatory behavior pursuant to section 2503 does not prevent an award of additional counsel fees under section 4351.
- Krebs v. Krebs – The Superior Court held that mother was entitled to retroactive modification of the child support order beyond the period that she had a petition for modification filed because father failed in his affirmative duty to report to the court his increase in earnings. The Court also explained that an award of attorney’s fees to a plaintiff in a support action may be appropriate in certain circumstances and that the court should consider (1) whether the obligor’s unreasonable or obstreperous conduct impeded the determination of an appropriate support order; (2) whether the obligor mounted a fair and reasonable defense in a child support order; (3) whether the obligor’s failure to fulfill his moral and financial obligation to support his children required legal action to force him to accept his responsibilities; and (4) whether the financial positions and financial needs of the parties are disparate.
NOTE: The cases listed are for informational purposes only and may have been amended or overturned by subsequently decided court cases.