No. 226 Philadelphia 1982, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Lehigh County, Domestic Relations Division, No. 456-A-1975.
Joyce Ullman, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Sandor Engel, Allentown, for appellee.
Spaeth, President Judge, and Montemuro and Popovich, JJ.
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This is an appeal from an order granting appellee's petition for an increase in support, and denying appellant's petition for a reduction, entered in the Court of Common Pleas, Lehigh County.
Appellant and appellee were married in 1965. Two children were born of the marriage, Scott in 1969, and Allison in 1971. The parties were divorced in 1976. Prior to that, in 1975, appellant and appellee entered into an agreement whereby appellant was to pay $200.00 per week for the support of the parties' two children. This subsequently became part of a court order.
Shortly after the divorce, appellee remarried. The children have resided with appellee since the parties' separation, and currently reside with her, her husband, Murray Klein, and a child of her present marriage, Julia.
In January of 1981, appellee filed a petition for modification of the support order, seeking an increase in support for
[ 324 Pa. Super. Page 367]
the two children. Appellant subsequently filed a petition for modification, seeking a decrease in the support order.
Both petitions were consolidated for a hearing before the Honorable David E. Mellenberg. The court below found that appellee's expenses in connection with raising the children had increased since the entry of the original order, and that this increase was due mainly to the fact that the children had advanced in age and were now pre-teenagers. In addition, the older child, Scott, has a learning disability, requiring special schooling at an increased cost since the time of the original order. Regarding the financial circumstances of the parents, the court found that appellant's net income had increased from $46,703.38 in 1976 to approximately $81,000.00 in 1980. Appellant, who is a physician, had also acquired assets of $61,000.00 in that same period. Appellee is presently unemployed, and at home caring for the child of her present marriage.
At the hearing in the court below, appellant attempted to pursue, and did pursue to the extent permitted, a line of inquiry concerning appellee's husband's relationship with the children. This was done in an effort to show that appellee's husband had assumed the status of in loco parentis to the children. Appellant's theory is that appellee's husband stands in loco parentis to the children, and as a consequence has a legal obligation to support them. The general rule is that a stepparent has no legal obligation to support his or her stepchild. Commonwealth ex rel. Hagerty v. Eyster, 286 Pa. Super. ...