No. 1840 October Term, 1979, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Criminal Division, No. 94-1976, Support.
Richard E. Santee, Bethlehem, for appellant.
James R. Fiorentino, Bethlehem, for appellee.
Price, Cavanaugh and Watkins, JJ.
[ 287 Pa. Super. Page 358]
The instant appeal is from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County granting a petition for modification of a support order filed by appellant, Jacqueline Simpson, against her husband, appellee, Robert Simpson. The parties were married on March 17, 1951 and separated on October 16, 1975. Appellant filed a petition for support in February of 1976 and, on July 19, 1976, an order was entered directing appellee to make monthly support payments of $645.00. Thereafter, during the fall of 1977,
[ 287 Pa. Super. Page 359]
appellee voluntarily increased his monthly support payments by $150.00 and, in the fall of 1978, once again increased his payments by an additional $50.00 per month. Appellant filed a petition for modification of the 1976 support order in July 1979, and on August 14, 1979, the court modified its order and directed that appellee pay $820.00 per month. This appeal followed.
Our scope of review in a support proceeding is narrowly defined. "[O]rders of support from the court below will not be modified on appeal except for manifest abuse of discretion. Commonwealth ex rel. Raitt v. Raitt, 203 Pa. Super. 226, 199 A.2d 512 (1964)." Commonwealth ex rel. Bergwerk v. Bergwerk, 228 Pa. Super. 190, 192, 323 A.2d 243, 245 (1974). See, e. g., Commonwealth ex rel. Levy v. Levy, 240 Pa. Super. 168, 174, 361 A.2d 781, 785 (1976); Commonwealth ex rel. Goichman v. Goichman, 226 Pa. Super. 311, 316 A.2d 653 (1973). "An abuse of discretion is not merely an error of judgment, but if in reaching a conclusion the law is overridden or misapplied, or the judgment exercised is manifestly unreasonable, or the result of partiality, prejudice, bias, or ill-will . . . discretion is abused." Man O'War Racing Association, Inc. v. State Horse Racing Commission, 433 Pa. 432, 451 n.10, 250 A.2d 172, 181 n.10 (1969), quoting Mielcuszny v. Rosol, 317 Pa. 91, 93-94, 176 A. 236, 237 (1934). If the instant order rests on any valid grounds, therefore, it must be sustained. Commonwealth ex rel. Goichman v. Goichman, supra; Commonwealth ex rel. Fishman v. Fishman, 213 Pa. Super. 342, 247 A.2d 810 (1968); Commonwealth ex rel. Heineman v. Heineman, 185 Pa. Super. 32, 137 A.2d 349 (1958).
Instantly, the original support order was based upon appellee's 1975 gross income of approximately $52,000.*fn1 Appellee's 1978 gross income, $68,000, was the basis for the modified support order. This represented an increase of $16,000, or approximately thirty percent (30%). The trial judge thus raised appellee's support obligation by $175, or
[ 287 Pa. Super. Page 360]
twenty-seven percent (27%), from $645 to $820 per month.*fn2 The trial court deemed this increase sufficient since appellant was receiving approximately $100 per month in interest income and because, in the trial judge's estimation, she had the capacity to earn approximately $400 per month if employed.
Appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion in attributing an earning capacity to her. She also argues that the court erred in fashioning an order that was "grossly inadequate" in view of appellee's earning capacity, the station of life to which the parties had become accustomed during their marriage and the fact that appellee had been voluntarily paying support in excess of that ...