Alimony & Spousal Support


Trial court did not abuse its discretion in holding that it was in child’s best interest for appellant to be liable for child support based on the doctrine of paternity by estoppel because appellant had a long-term in loco parentis, relationship with child that began when child was an infant, he held himself out as the child’s father for years, formed a close emotional bond with her and listed her as a dependent on his tax returns.

       Appellee had a child in 2002 and her child support action against natural father was dismissed because he could not be located. In 2003, she began a relationship with appellant and they lived together with appellee’s child until 2015. Appellant held himself out as child’s father, treated child the same as his biological daughters, supported child financially and claimed child as a dependent on his tax returns. Appellant and appellee ended their relationship and appellant cut off financial support for child and virtually all contact. Appellee filed an action for child support. Child psychologist testified child viewed appellant as her de facto emotional parent. Trail court concluded it was in the child’s best interests to apply the paternity by estoppel doctrine and ordered appellant to pay child support. Appellant appealed.

       Court noted that the undisputed lack of a biological relationship did not defeat the application of paternity by estoppel and the K.E.M. v. P.C.S., 38 A.3d 789, held that paternity by estoppel remained good law in Pennsylvania. Court found the evidence in this case supported the trial court’s ruling. Appellant had a long-term in loco parentis relationship with child that began when child as an infant. Child and appellee lived in appellant’s home for the first 12 years of child’s life, appellant held himself out as child’s father, supported her, listed her as a dependent on his tax returns and formed a close emotional bond with her. After appellee’s and appellant’s relationship ended, child had continued need for financial support and for appellant’s emotional support.

     Appellant’s argument that he was not required to pay support in view of A.S. v. I.S., 130 A.3d 769, failed because that case was factually and legally distinguishable and fell outside the contours of paternity by estoppel.

REF: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 42 PLW 1056, Tuesday, November 5, 2019, S.M.C. v. C.A.W., PICS Case No. 19-1307 (Pa. Super. Oct. 22, 2019) J.

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