Child Support

An 100 Percent Upward Deviation From Child Support Guidelines Not An Abuse Of Discretion

In the child support, family law case of J.P.D. v. W.E.D., PICS Case No. 15-0740 (Pa. Super. May 5, 2015) the Honorable Kate Ford Elliot, writing on behalf of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, ruled that a 100 percent upward deviation from the recommended guideline amount for child support to be paid by father did not constitute an abuse of discretion by the trial court where the trial court found that father’s new wife had a substantial income and paid all of father’s living expenses.  The Order of the trial court affirmed.

Father, W.E.D., appealed from an order of the trial court ordering him to pay $1,365 per month to mother, J.P.D., for the support of their two children. Father filed a petition seeking modification of the child support order due to the upcoming expiration of the parties’ alimony term. The trial court held a hearing, with both parties presenting experts that assessed the parties’ earning capacities.

The hearing officer entered a recommendation of temporary order directing father to pay $926.65 retroactive to May 1, 2014. Mother filed exceptions in which she argued that the hearing officer erred in crediting the testimony of father’s expert over mother’s expert and failed to add back 100 percent of father’s living expenses that were paid by father’s current wife. Father filed cross-exceptions arguing that the hearing officer erred in determining his annual income.

The trial court sustained, in part, both mother’s and father’s exceptions. After making findings of the parties’ income, the trial court found that father’s guideline monthly child support was $665; the trial court then added an upward deviation of $701 due to father’s current wife’s substantial annual income of over a million dollars, resulting in a total monthly support award of $1,365.

On appeal, father argued that the trial court’s award was contrary to the evidence presented at trial and was both punitive and confiscatory. Father argued that he contributed to the payment of his household expenses; however, the court found that father’s testimony supported the trial court’s determination, as father testified that his current wife paid all of their household expenses and father’s living expenses.

The court noted that, contrary to father’s assertion that he and mother had comparable incomes, mother did not live with a spouse with an annual income exceeding one million dollars. Therefore, father had more available income for child support.

The court additionally noted that father would only be paying 37 percent of his monthly income on child support, leaving over 50 percent of his earning capacity for himself. The court held that it was within the trial court’s discretion to deviate from the support guidelines when supported by the record. It ruled that the record supported the trial court’s determination that father could afford an additional $701 per month for the support of his children, noting that if father’s circumstances were to change, he could petition for modification.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 38 PLW 469 (May 19, 2015)

Filed Under: Child Support; Family Law; Deviation from the Recommended Guidelines

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