Nos. 554 and 825, April Term, 1977, Appeal from the Order of the Court dated 22 February 1977 and the Order of the Court dated 3 May 1977 at No. 348 of 1977, Court of Common Pleas, of Allegheny County in Support, Family Division.
Felix J. DeGuilio, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
A. Pyle, with him Shelley A. Bould, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ. Watkins, former President Judge, did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
[ 254 Pa. Super. Page 491]
Appellant contends that the lower court erred in (1) ordering him to pay support to appellee who failed to establish a reasonable cause for leaving appellant, and (2) directing appellant to pay appellee's medical and drug bills without limit. We agree and, therefore, reverse the lower court's order.
On February 7, 1977, appellee filed a complaint for support pursuant to the Civil Procedural Support Law*fn1 in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. At a hearing on February 22, 1977, the parties presented the following facts: Appellant and appellee were married on October 2, 1965; they had no children. Appellee left the family home on January 11, 1977, and established a separate household. Appellee testified that because of psychiatric problems, she had been hospitalized four times, most recently in January, 1974. Although she had been employed previously as an office worker, appellee's emotional problems prevented her from working currently. As a result of her disorder, appellee received $260.00 per month in Social Security disability payments. Appellee further testified that at the time of the hearing, she was under the care of a "thyroid doctor," as well as two psychiatrists. She testified that appellant had paid her doctor bills which averaged $39.00 per month and her drug bills which averaged about $40.00 per month. Although appellee conceded that Medicaid paid part of her medical expenses, the actual amount covered by Medicaid was disputed. Appellee's attorney testified that when appellee contacted her, appellee was at a shelter for battered wives because "she did not feel safe" with appellant. However, appellee did not testify about her reasons for leaving appellant.
Appellant testified that he did not know why appellee had left him and that he desired her return. Appellant further testified that he earned about $700.00 net income per month and had accumulated $1500.00 in cash during the marriage. He presented a budget which enumerated average monthly
[ 254 Pa. Super. Page 492]
medical expenses of $115.00. Appellant maintained that ninety-five percent of those medical expenses represented payments for appellee's doctors and drugs and that his Blue Cross coverage paid for all medical expenses except $50.00.
After the hearing, the lower court ordered appellant to pay appellee support in the amount of $200.00 per month and "to pay to keep wife on medical program and pay medical and drug bills." Appellant filed an appeal from the order on March 2, 1977. On March 7, 1977, appellant petitioned the court for reconsideration of its order. On May 3, 1977, the court formally dismissed appellant's petition for reconsideration. This appeal followed.
Appellant first contends that the lower court erred in granting a support order for appellee because appellee failed to establish a reasonable cause for leaving appellant. Our courts continue to hold that a wife seeking support has the burden of establishing that her husband consented to the separation or that her husband's conduct justified her leaving the marital home. However, a wife seeking support need not establish facts which would entitle her to a divorce. Commonwealth ex rel. Loosley v. Loosley, 236 Pa. Super. 389, 345 A.2d 721 (1975); Commonwealth ex rel. Halderman v. Halderman, 230 Pa. Super. 125, 326 A.2d 908 (1974); Crissman v. Crissman, 220 Pa. Super. 387, 281 A.2d 719 (1971); Commonwealth ex rel. Lewis v. Lewis, 218 Pa. Super. 296, 275 A.2d 861 (1971).*fn2
In the instant case, appellant testified that he did not know why appellee had left the family home and that he desired her return. Consequently, appellee has not established a separation by mutual consent which would continue appellant's legal obligation to support appellee as his wife. Commonwealth ex rel. Lewis v. Lewis, supra. Nor has appellee established that appellant's conduct justified her leaving. ...