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March 11, 1983


No. 32 Pittsburgh, 1980, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Family Division, at No. 1142 of 1956, G65230

Before Cavanaugh, Brosky and Montgomery, JJ.


This appeal is form that portion of a support order which directed appellant to pay monies to appellee's assignee, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. Appellant argues that he had no knowledge of, and was not a party to, the assignment; and that he should not be liable for the failure of the assignor to transmit payments. We affirm.

In 1966, appellant entered into an agreement obligating him to pay $12/month child support to appellee via the Domestic Relations Division of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. Three years later, Ms. Smith, appellee, assigned her rights to these payments to the Department of Public Welfare as a condition of becoming a welfare recipient. In 1979, appellee requested and received an increase in the amount of the child support payments. At the same time, the court directed appellant to pay the arrears in support payments. It is that last portion of the order that is appealed from here.

The trial court opinion adequately disposes of the issues raised on appeal. The order directing that arrears in payments be made on a specified schedule is affirmed.

EDNA SMITH, Plaintiff vs. HAROLD GIBBS, Defendant

No. 1142 of 1966

Defendant has appealed from that portion of an Order of this Court setting the amount of his arrearages in this child support action at $1,422.00, and ordering him to pay said amount to the Department of Public Welfare in monthly installments of $25.00. This Court also increased the amount of Defendant's current support obligation from $12.00 to $75.00 per month; however this part of the Order has not been appealed.

Defendant has filed a Statement of Matters to be Considered on Appeal. The issues Defendant raises are:

1) no evidence was introduced to support and justify the Order of Court as promulgated;

2) no claim was filed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania demanding payment of the arrearages, nor could it be a proper party to proceed against the Defendant; and

3) the claim of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, if one is indeed made, should be directed against the Plaintiff who admitted receiving funds from both the Defendant and the Commonwealth at the same time.

As a result of the above, Defendant claims his rights under the Constitutions of both the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been violated in that he is deprived of property without due process.

Underlying the issues directly raised by Defendant is his contention that he should be credited with direct payments made to Plaintiff despite the fact that he had been ordered to pay support to the Domestic Relations Division which was then to turn over these sums of money to the Commonwealth's Department of Public Welfare. In this case Plaintiff had assigned her right to collect child support from Defendant to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, in turn, had assumed Defendant's obligation to support his child by Plaintiff. Assuming the Defendant had in fact paid all the outstanding arrearages to Plaintiff, and indeed there is some question of that, this Court's position is that he should not be credited with those amounts. To do so would be to invite welfare fraud.

To further develop this position, it will be helpful to review the history of this case and the controlling legislation.

Plaintiff filed this action in the form of a civil complaint for support of the parties' child in 1966. Defendant was directed to pay the sum of $12.00 per month for support. This amount was settled upon by agreement of both parties. It appears that the Court was willing to allow Defendant to pay such an extraordinarily low sum because he was also at that time paying support for five other children. The order directed the Defendant to pay this sum to the Domestic Relations Division of the County Court of Allegheny County. Plaintiff was receiving welfare payments from the Department of Public Assistance when this order was made.

Since then, Plaintiff has made two assignments to the Department of Public Assistance of the support due to her from Defendant. The first was dated September 12, 1969, which says in part:

"...I, the aforesaid Edna Mae Smith do hereby request and authorize the Family Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County to pay to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare, its successors or assigns, or to its duly authorized agents, any and all sums of money which come into his hands in payment of the aforesaid order of Court, or the amount which the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare, has expended for the support of myself and/or children, whichever is the lesser..."

The second assignment is dated October 2, 1975 and reads, in part:

"In consideration of the public assistance which has been granted, is being granted or which will be granted to the undersigned on behalf of the undersigned and/or on behalf of the defendant's child(ren), the Domestic Relations Division is authorized and requested to; (a) change the name of the beneficiary to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare, and (b) assign all arrearages owed under the Court order, and to pay them, when collected, to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare,..."

Copies of the September 12, 1969 and October 2, 1975 assignments, which are part of the Domestic Relations file in this case, are appended to this Opinion as Appendices "A" and "B" respectively. These assignments were made pursuant to the Act of June 13, 1967, P.L. 31, No. 21 § 432.7 added 1976, July 9, P.L. 993 No. 202 § 5, which reads as follows:

"In accordance with a child support plan approved by the Federal Government, the department shall have the power and its duty shall be to:

(a) Require as a condition of eligibility for assistance that the applicant or recipient:

(2) Assign to the department on forms provided by the department such support rights as the applicant or recipient may have in his own behalf or on behalf of any member who is a part of the assistance unit."

62 P.S. § 432.7.

This legislation was required by Federal statute. In 1975, Congress enacted Title IV-D of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 651-660) which requires as a condition of aid that a state establish a comprehensive program for both child support enforcement and determination of paternity. 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(26)(A) provides that the welfare recipient or applicant is required to assign to the state any rights to support which have accrued at the time such assignment is executed. Title IV-D of the Social Security Act was established in response to the growing number of children receiving AFDC benefits because of non-supporting parents. It was passed in order to facilitate reimbursement of tax funds expended for welfare payments.

In the instant case Defendant was to pay $12.00 per month for support. He was ordered to pay it to the Domestic Relations Division. In view of the assignments made by Plaintiff and the legislation which required those assignments, it is clear that Defendant's contention that the Commonwealth has no claim to the arrearages is without merit. It is also clear that the Commonwealth has a right to collect these payments now from Defendant.

Since Defendant's only defense to the relatively large amount of arrearages was that he alleges that he paid the money directly to Plaintiff, his contention that no evidence was introduced to support and justify this Court's order is also without merit. In the almost fourteen years that this order for $12.00 per month stood, Defendant managed to accumulate more than twelve years worth of arrearages.*fn1 This Court set the amount of arrearages at that amount which Defendant should have paid while the child was receiving welfare. At $12.00 per month, this is only a very small percentage of the welfare payments received, but that amount is owed to the Commonwealth and this Court intends that the Commonwealth should collect it.

[ 311 Pa. Super. Page 8]

As to Defendant's final contention that the claim of the Commonwealth should be directed to Plaintiff, this Court holds quite the contrary. If Plaintiff was unjustly enriched, then Defendant has a claim against her. But it should be noted here,that much of what was given by Defendant to Plaintiff has all the earmarks of gift (Transcript, Page 8). If Defendant so desires, he can attempt to proceed against Plaintiff for recovery.

Strassburger J.

July 15, 1980.

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