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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. FRANKLIN W. WOOLF (03/21/80)

filed: March 21, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE EX REL. EVELYN HAGER
v.
FRANKLIN W. WOOLF, APPELLANT



No. 1645 October Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Criminal, at No. 150-J August Term, 1972.

COUNSEL

John Molnar, Bangor, for appellant.

Jean E. Graybill, Assistant Attorney General, Harrisburg, for Commonwealth, on behalf of Evelyn Hager, appellee.

Van der Voort, Hester and Montgomery, JJ.

Author: Montgomery

[ 276 Pa. Super. Page 434]

The Appellant filed the instant appeal from an Order of the lower court that he pay a weekly support payment towards the cost of the care of his minor child. The sole issue presented is whether Appellant can be held liable for such support payments after an Order was entered for the voluntary relinquishment of the child by Appellant to an agency under the Adoption Act (Act of July 24, 1970, P.L. 620, No. 208, art. I., 1 P.S. ยง 101, et seq.).

The parties agree that Appellant and his former wife were married in 1967 and subsequently divorced in 1972. During their marriage, they had three children. It was accepted as a fact by the lower court that in August, 1977, the Lutheran Children's Home of Topton, an agency, and Appellant petitioned the Orphan's Court of Northampton

[ 276 Pa. Super. Page 435]

County for the voluntary relinquishment by Appellant of custody of one of the minor children, Darren, to the Home.*fn1 The Petition apparently alleged that the Appellant supported and had custody of the other two natural children and that he was not in a financial position which permitted him to support the third child, Darren. In addition, the Petition apparently stated that it was in the best interests of the children if the Court ordered voluntary relinquishment to the Home. Upon consideration of the Petition, and testimony at a hearing, the lower court ordered a voluntary relinquishment, with custody in the Lutheran Children's Home of Topton.

The Lutheran Children's Home apparently intended to move to terminate the parental status of the natural mother, Evelyn Hager, and then to proceed with plans to seek to have Darren adopted. The adoptive plan was halted abruptly however, when the natural mother removed the child from the foster home established by the Lutheran Children's Home. She then set up residence, with Darren, and applied for public assistance with the Appellee Department of Public Welfare. Thereafter, the Appellee Department filed a Petition seeking support against Appellant. Appellant contended before the lower court that he had no obligation to pay any support with respect to Darren, since he had previously voluntarily relinquished his parental rights with respect to the child. He argued below, as he does on this appeal, that such relinquishment relieved him of any duty to support the child. The lower court ruled that Appellant was obligated to support his child in spite of the voluntary relinquishment.

Appellant places principal reliance upon the language of Section 301 of the Adoption Act, which provides:

When any child under the age of eighteen years has been in the care of an agency for a ...


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