No. 463 Philadelphia, 1982, Appeal from the Order entered January 15, 1982 In the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Civil Division, No. A06-80-60390-S-10.
Colin M. Jenei, Yardly, for appellant.
Denis M. Lanctot, Morrisville, for appellee.
Cercone, President Judge, and Johnson and Montemuro, JJ.
[ 315 Pa. Super. Page 54]
Appellant, Joseph C. Bockin, Jr., takes this appeal from the order of the court below directing appellant to pay $48.00 per week towards the support of his minor son, Christopher, who is in the custody of appellant's ex-wife, appellee, Dorothy R. Roberts. In this appeal, appellant raises three issues. On one of these issues, we find no error. We are, however, unable to resolve the two remaining issues because the record does not contain sufficient information, accordingly, this case must be remanded for further hearings.
On September 2, 1981, appellee filed a petition against appellant for support of the parties' minor son, who was born September 14, 1968. A conference was held in the Domestic Relations Office on November 10, 1981, after which a temporary interim order of $20.00 per week was entered without prejudice to either party as to the issues of amount of support or of its retroactivity. Thereafter, a hearing was held before the common pleas court on January 14, 1982. At this hearing, appellee testified that she was employed as an administrative sales assistant earning a net, bi-weekly salary of $324.86. Her expenses, however, for her and her son were said to be twice that of her salary; appellee testified that her weekly expenses were $319.54.*fn1
Much of the rest of the questioning of appellee, particularly on cross-examination, focused on appellee's prior employment history, and it is on this fact that appellant bases his first issue. According to appellee's testimony, for a period of six years prior to August, 1979, appellee worked as an executive secretary for U.S. Steel Corporation. However, in August of 1979, appellee, citing a need "to get
[ 315 Pa. Super. Page 55]
away from the pressures here," quit her job, sold her home, and moved to England with her son, Christopher. When she was unsuccessful in obtaining employment there, she and Christopher moved to Florida. Upon encountering similar difficulties in Florida, appellee returned to the Bucks County area, where, after a year of searching, she obtained her present job. Listing these facts, appellant now contends that appellee's present financial circumstances are the result of her voluntary decision to quit her job with U.S. Steel and to use the proceeds from the sale of her home for travel and living expenses. Appellant thus argues that the lower court abused its discretion in failing to find that appellee's earning capacity exceeds her present income and in failing to determine the amount of the support award on that basis.
It has been held that a parent may not intentionally reduce his or her earnings and then use the reduction in earnings to obtain a reduction in the amount of support which that parent must provide for his or her children; courts have traditionally viewed with suspicion any sudden reduction of payments toward support based on such income reductions. Commonwealth ex rel. Darling v. Darling, 300 Pa. Superior Ct. 62, 445 A.2d 1299 (1982); Commonwealth ex rel. Burns v. Burns, 251 Pa. Superior Ct. 393, 380 A.2d 837 (1977); Weiser v. Weiser, 238 Pa. Superior Ct. 488, 362 A.2d 287 (1976), Snively v. Snively, 206 Pa. Superior Ct. 278, 212 A.2d 905 (1965). The rationale underlying these decisions is that a parent has a duty to his or her children and therefore a parent should not be permitted to evade that responsibility by deliberately reducing his or her income. This rule, however, is not without its exceptions. As we noted in Weiser v. Weiser, supra, 238 Pa. Superior Ct. at 492, 362 A.2d at 288-289:
[W]e are not constrained to say that a man once he has established a certain income level for himself and his family in the employ of another cannot decide to go into business for himself even though it results in a ...