Child Support

Mother Was Contractually Responsible For 100% Of Son’s Out Of State Boarding School Tuition And Expense

In the child support, family law, appellate case of Remington vs. Krohn, PICS Case No. 16-0674, (Pa. Super., May 13 2016) the Honorable Jacqueline O. Shogun, writing on behalf on the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the Trial Court properly denied modification of parties’ child supports agreement because mother was contractually responsible for son’s education expenses as father was for daughter’s expenses.

Mother and father divorced and by court order equally shared legal and physical custody of two children who were not emancipated. They additionally agreed that their income were approximately equal and that neither would owe guideline child support to the other. They agreed that mother would be responsible for son’s expenses, and father would be responsible for daughter’s expenses. The agreement further provide that it was modifiable based on disability or death of either party or if either party suffer from involuntary unemployment  reducing their income by at least 50%. After son had trouble in school mother sent him to an out-of-state boarding school and filed a petition or modification of support averring changes in parties’ circumstances. After a hearing the special master determined that mother had not established any significant changes in circumstances to warrant modification and that the agreement did not bargain away son’s right to support. Mother appealed.

On appeal, mother argued that the trial court erred in determining that the agreement was modifiable and asserted that the agreement was modifiable due an increase in father’s income, an increase in mother’s custodial time and an increase in son’ educational expenses. The Trial Court rejected mother’s premise and pointed out that it did not say the agreement was modifiable but, it was not modifiable in the circumstances presented. The record supported the trial court findings. Under the agreement mother was contractually responsible for son’s tuition expenses. Additionally mother chose to send son to an out-of-state boarding school without informing father of the decision or inform the school about the parties’ shared custody agreement. While mother did ask father for help with the tuition, she did not ask for a specific amount of financial help, and he did not consent to contributing to the additional expenses.

Additionally mother’s assertion that a change custodial time was disingenuous. Mother admitted that she and father had not maintained the 50/50 custody agreement and she did not enforce the agreement by ensuring that son spent time with father, even if son resisted.

Mother also asserted that a near doubling of father’s income was substantial change of circumstance justifying modification. Mother attempted to offer evidence of father’s increased income at the hearing but the hearing was bifurcated, mother did not object to the bifurcation and mother did not offer evidence of her own income. Accordingly, master properly refused to consider evidence of father’s income. Additionally son’s tuition was mother’s contractual obligation, thus, father’s income had no bearing on who was responsible for son’s tuition.

Mother also contended that the trial court erred by failing to apply the Gibbons vs. Kugle, standard to determine whether private schools need were reasonable and necessary. However, Gibbons involved court-ordered child support pursuant to state guidelines. Here mother assumed responsibility for son’s educational expenses as father assumed responsibility for daughter’s educational expenses. Father’s increase of income did not constitute a change in circumstance warranting modification of the agreement.

Reference: Digest of Recent Pennsylvania Law Weekly 39 PLW 517 (May 31, 2016)

Filed Under: Child Support; Education Expense; Contractual Responsibility for education expenses

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