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decided: July 13, 1984.


No. 68 W.D. Appeal Docket 1983, Appeal from Order of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania entered July 1, 1983, at No. 350 Pittsburgh, 1982, Affirming Order of the Trial Court entered March 29, 1982, by the Court of Common Pleas of Greene County at A.D. No. 90, 1980 (Action for Child Support), Pa. Super. , 463 A.2d 28 (1983)


Harry J. Cancelmi, Jr., Thompson & Baily, Waynesburg, for appellant.

Rochelle S. Friedman, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Zappala and Papadakos, JJ., join this opinion. Flaherty and McDermott, JJ., join this opinion and Flaherty, J., files a separate concurring opinion which McDermott, J., joins. Hutchinson, J., files a concurring opinion. Nix, C.j., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Larsen

[ 505 Pa. Page 466]


Appellant Arden Melzer and appellee Lynn Witsberger were divorced in 1978. On August 20, 1980, appellant was awarded custody of the parties' two minor children.*fn1 In December, 1980, appellant filed a complaint, demanding support from appellee for the two minor children in the amount of $400 per month. During the following year the Greene County Court of Common Pleas held two hearings on appellant's complaint. Subsequently, appellee also filed a complaint for support for travel expenses incurred during visitations with her children.

The hearing court found the following facts:

The father [appellant] is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, living on and now owning, in his own name a

[ 505 Pa. Page 467]

    farm, located in the western section of this county [Greene County], with a second wife, and the two children. In 1978, he earned $29,726.00, $30,000.00 in 1979, and $32,085.00 in 1980, these being gross earnings. In 1981, his gross pay was $2755.00 per month, with deductions of $1889.00, and when adjusted for certain additional expenses, left a take-home pay of $1524.66, out of which he supported himself and family. Also he had a mortgage payment, and a judgment note acquired to pay several expenses accumulated from the marital separation, with mortgage payments of $260.00 per month and monthly payments on the $12,000.00 judgment note. Also, he had travel expenses to and from Pittsburgh, real estate taxes, utility payments, and farm maintenance costs.

The mother [appellee], at the time, was employed as a social worker at Mercy Hospital [in Pittsburgh], was living in Wheeling, was then married, and commuted to her work. At the date of the first hearing she had just accepted a position at Montefiore Hospital in Pittsburgh as head of Social Services with an annual gross pay of approximately $22,500.00. At the time of the second hearing she was divorced, had moved to Pittsburgh, and had leased a 3-bedroom apartment there. Her gross income in 1981, was $28,000.00, paid at the rate of $1076.00 bi-weekly, with a net pay of $687.14. Also she owns a house in Wheeling worth $48,000.00 from which she received a rental of $340.00, which she stated, was only enough to pay the debt charge, taxes, insurance and maintenance. On her visits with the children, she testified that they share several recreational activities which require more money than the travel expense, and the normal living expenses incidental to the visits.

When examined closely, the mother has approximately $1364.00 per month to cover her living expenses, while the father has $1524.66 for his and the children's living expense.

[ 505 Pa. Page 468]

On March 29, 1982, the hearing court dismissed both complaints,*fn2 concluding:

This is a slightly disproportionate financial circumstance considering the mother has the children only part time. However, we are persuaded that the father has failed to prove his entitlement to a contribution for support from the mother, and certainly vice versa. We believe the several factors which must and have been considered cancel out any support entitlement from one parent to the other, and each parent shall be responsible for their separate, albeit disparate, parental financial duties.

On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed. Melzer v. Witsberger, 315 Pa. Super. 626, 463 A.2d 28 (1983). We granted appellant's petition for allowance of appeal in order to set forth uniform guidelines for the calculation of child support.

The fundamental requirements of child support are clear. In the matter of child support we have always expressed as the primary purpose the best interest and welfare of the child . . . . Support, as every other duty encompassed in the role of parenthood, is the equal responsibility of both mother and father. Both must be required to discharge the obligation in accordance with their capacity and ability.

Conway v. Dana, 456 Pa. 536, 540, 318 A.2d 324, 326 (1974). See also Costello v. LeNoir, 462 Pa. 36, 40, 337 A.2d 866, 868 (1975) ("[E]very parent has a duty to support his or her minor children . . . in accordance with the parents' respective abilities to pay . . . .").

Nevertheless, we have never established an orderly method for the calculation of support awards. Rather, our courts have been guided by numerous general principles created by our appellate courts. While there is no shortage of ...

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