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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. HAUPTFUHRER v. HAUPTFUHRER (09/19/73)

decided: September 19, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. HAUPTFUHRER
v.
HAUPTFUHRER, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, April T., 1972, No. 503, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Alberta Hauptfuhrer v. Henry Hauptfuhrer, III.

COUNSEL

Henry T. Reath, with him Alan Reeve Hunt, and Duane, Morris & Heckscher, for appellant.

Desmond J. McTighe, with him McTighe, Brown, Weiss, Bonner & Stewart, for appellee.

Wright, P. J., Watkins, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, Cercone, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Spaulding, J.

Author: Spaulding

[ 226 Pa. Super. Page 302]

Appellant Henry Hauptfuhrer appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County requiring him to pay $800 per week support for his wife Alberta, the appellee, and their three children. They have been married for 17 years, but separated since November 1971. As a result of their marriage there are three children, a boy age 18, and two girls, ages 13 and 16, who reside with appellee. Appellant does not deny his responsibility to support both mother and children. His sole contention on this appeal is that

[ 226 Pa. Super. Page 303]

    the court erred in fixing the amount of support at $800 per week. He argues that the court below abused its discretion in finding the needs of the family, in determining appellant's earnings, his earning capacity and assets, and in finding that appellee had no earning capacity with which to reduce the order of support.

"Generally we will not disturb a support order unless there is a clear abuse of discretion by the court below in fixing the amount. Commonwealth ex rel. Long v. Long, 181 Pa. Superior Ct. 41, 43, 121 A.2d 888 (1956), or unless it is clear that the order is based on a misinterpretation of the law." Hecht v. Hecht, 189 Pa. Superior Ct. 276, 281, 150 A.2d 139, 142 (1959). However, "[i]t is well established in Pennsylvania that any order for support must be fair and not confiscatory. [As to the children], [t]he purpose of such an order is the maintenance and welfare of the children, not the punishment of the parent, and the amount of the order must be justified by the parent's present earning ability, making due allowance for his own reasonable living expenses. Commonwealth ex rel. Jacobson v. Jacobson, 188 Pa. Superior Ct. 433, 146 A.2d 91 (1958); Commonwealth v. Wingert, 173 Pa. Superior Ct. 613, 98 A.2d 203 (1953)." Commonwealth ex rel. Goodman v. Delara, 219 Pa. Superior Ct. 449, 453, 281 A.2d 751, 753 (1971). The purpose of a support order for a wife is, similarly, to secure her a reasonable allowance, bearing in mind the husband's earning capacity and property and the station in life of the parties. Commonwealth ex rel. Fryling v. Fryling, 220 Pa. Superior Ct. 68, 283 A.2d 726 (1971); Commonwealth ex rel. Kallen v. Kallen, 200 Pa. Superior Ct. 507, 190 A.2d 175 (1963). Again, the purpose is not to confiscate the husband's property.

In Hecht, supra, Judge Woodside said: "No two support cases are ever alike. Circumstances, although similar in some respect, may differ materially in other

[ 226 Pa. Super. Page 304]

    respects. It is for the court to consider all the circumstances. It is difficult for an appellate court to state rules equally applicable to all cases. This case is unusual because of the wealth of the parents." 189 Pa. Superior Ct. at 281. The "wealth" involved in Hecht led this Court to increase a support order for two children to $550 per month. Here, the court below considered appellant to have sufficient "wealth" to pay $800 per week for the support of his family of four. It is fruitless, however, to merely compare dollar amounts in the instant case with the numerous precedents cited by the parties, which differ on their facts to a greater or lesser degree. Rather, we approach the mass of figures, estimates, and documents, comprising the testimony and exhibits, by considering appellant's arguments as they relate to all the circumstances of this case.

"It is the standard of living to which a family becomes accustomed that governs the calculation of a proper support order, consistent, of course, always, with the husband-father's income and assets." Commonwealth ex rel. Gitman v. Gitman, 428 Pa. 387, 395, 237 A.2d 181, 186 (1967). "If the husband-father can afford for himself a caviar-champagne standard of living, it is not justice, nor legal, that the wife should be content with a tent and bread-and-butter menu for herself and brood." Id. at 394. The instant case presents a situation where the family has obviously become accustomed to a gracious standard of living, justifying a substantial support order. As stated by the lower court: "The family occupied an extremely high position in life and had a very affluent standard of living before the parties separated. However, there are limits to what a family can ...


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