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ROBERT BROWN v. ROBERT BROWN (04/19/84)

filed: April 19, 1984.

ROBERT BROWN, JR.
v.
ROBERT BROWN, SR., APPELLANT



No. 5 Pittsburgh 1983, Appeal from the Order Entered December 13, 1982 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Family Division, No. 1823 of 1979

COUNSEL

Robert X. Medonis, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

James G. Groninger, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Wieand, Tamilia and Popovich, JJ.

Author: Tamilia

[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 53]

This is an appeal from an order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, requiring appellant, Robert Kevin Brown, Sr., to pay support for his son, appellee, Robert Kevin Brown, Jr., in the amount of $150 per month, as well as to provide medical insurance coverage for appellee, a 22 year old student at Duquesne University School of Law. We reverse.

The sole issue with which we are here concerned is whether the lower court committed reversible error in concluding that a duty of financial contribution to the expenses of a legal education is owed by appellant to his adult son.*fn1

The scope of appellate review in support cases is confined to a determination of whether there has been abuse of discretion by the court below. Commonwealth ex rel Grallnick v. Grallnick, 279 Pa. Super. 347, 421 A.2d 232 (1980). Here we find that the trial court has misapplied existing law to include professional training of an emancipated adult child among the obligations of a divorced parent, thereby formulating policy which extends beyond the boundaries mandated by precedent.

The Pennsylvania Courts have acknowledged, in cases where no undue hardship would be occasioned, a parental obligation to support a child through college assuming the child's aptitude and desire to participate. Lederer v. Lederer, 291 Pa. Super. 22, 435 A.2d 199 (1981); Grallnick, supra; Deiley v. Deiley, 281 Pa. Super. 288, 422 A.2d 172 (1980); Commonwealth ex rel Schmidt v. Schmidt, 223 Pa. Super. 20, 296 A.2d 855 (1972); Commonwealth ex rel Rice v. Rice, 206 Pa. Super. 393, 213 A.2d 179 (1965). Appellant has fulfilled his responsibility in this regard as appellee graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1979.

[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 54]

However, it is a further principle of law in this Commonwealth that upon a child's attainment of his majority the obligation of a parent to support him ends, at least presumptively, and that the presumption must be rebutted by the child, demonstrating some defect, mental or physical, rendering self-support unfeasible or employment impossible. Verna v. Verna, 288 Pa. Super. 511, 432 A.2d 630 (1981); Commonwealth ex rel Schulberg v. Hirsch, 236 Pa. Super. 179, 344 A.2d 530 (1975).

The only Pennsylvania case dealing directly with the point at issue here, Colantoni v. Colantoni, 220 Pa. Super. 46, 281 A.2d 662 (1971) relies on the majority and emancipation of the medical student son to deny him support from his physician father. Although Colantoni, supra, is sufficiently dissimilar factually to offer by itself no decisive support in the instant case, it is at least instructive in the consistency with which it applies the thrust of the case law to a graduate student situation. The age of majority, whether 18 or 21, is not one to conjure with in support cases, but it does, absent exceptional circumstances, offer a reliable indicium of the potential autonomy of the child. It is from that point that the required inquiry into specifics must proceed.

Appellee contends that the facts and circumstances of this case serve to counter the presumption of discharged duty raised by his having reached legal adulthood. The trial court found the crucial elements to be the demands of a law school curriculum, appellee's family and financial obligations, appellant's undisputed ability to make monetary contributions, and a familial norm of erudition evidenced by appellant's advanced degrees. The lower court, in further developing its rationale, finds validity for its conclusions in the assumption that at least one case, Hirsch, ...


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