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FLORENCE M. FEE v. J. KEVIN FEE (07/26/85)

filed: July 26, 1985.

FLORENCE M. FEE, APPELLEE,
v.
J. KEVIN FEE, APPELLANT. FLORENCE M. FEE, APPELLANT, V. J. KEVIN FEE, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order entered October 8, 1982 in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Civil Division, at No. 1008 N 1981. NO. 3313 PHILADELPHIA 1982, Appeal from the Order entered October 8, 1982 in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Civil Division, at No. 1008 N 1981.

COUNSEL

William R. Hagner, Paoli, for appellant (at No. 3135), for appellee (at No. 3313).

Arthur L. Jenkins, Jr., Norristown, for appellant (at No. 3313), for appellee (at No. 3135).

McEwen, Beck and Cercone, JJ.

Author: Beck

[ 344 Pa. Super. Page 279]

In this appeal from a Chester County child support order, the father asserts that the trial court erred in calculating his support obligation under a shared custody arrangement (1) by premising its order on the Chester County support guidelines; (2) by ignoring monies expended directly on the children and (3) by considering the economic contribution of his live-in companion. The mother cross-appeals by contending that the trial court erred in not affirming the hearing officer's recommendation of $920 per month and instead awarding $875 per month in support for her and the parties' two children. These cross-appeals which are limited to the issue of child support, have been consolidated.

On appeal, a trial court's child support order will not be disturbed unless there is insufficient evidence to sustain it or the court abused its discretion in fashioning the award. Commonwealth ex rel. Robinson v. Robinson, 318 Pa. Super. 424, 465 A.2d 27 (1983); Downie v. Downie, 314 Pa. Super. 548, 461 A.2d 293 (1983). An abuse of discretion is not "'merely an error of judgment, but if in reaching a conclusion the law is overridden or misapplied, or the judgment exercised is manifestly unreasonable, or the result of partiality, prejudice, bias or ill-will, as shown by the evidence or the record, discretion is abused.'" Boni v. Boni, 302 Pa. Super. 102, 109, 448 A.2d 547, 550 (1982) (citation omitted); Commonwealth ex rel. Darling v. Darling, 300 Pa. Super. 62, 445 A.2d 1299 (1982). For the reasons hereinafter stated, we conclude that the trial court lacked adequate

[ 344 Pa. Super. Page 280]

    evidence upon which to predicate its award, and therefore, we vacate the trial court's support order and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

In many counties, the courts rely on county support guidelines in fashioning support awards. See, e.g., Shank v. Shank, 298 Pa. Super. 459, 444 A.2d 1274 (1982). These guidelines are an efficient tool and impose some uniformity on support orders. The Chester County guidelines which are in the form of grids, consider two variables: the number of persons for which support is sought and the individual incomes of the mother and the father. After the court determines the appropriate support amount from the grid, it then adjusts that amount by considering the parents' other direct and indirect financial benefits and the actual, reasonable expenses of the parents and children together with any circumstances that may increase or defray those expenses.

In the case sub judice, the trial court determined the parties' respective net monthly incomes and then consulted Chester County's support guidelines.*fn1 Although the guideline grids are gauged solely to income and the number of people being supported, the preamble to the guidelines provides flexibility in applying the grids. The preamble declares that the guideline grids are "not intended to deprive the hearing officer of discretion to consider, among other things . . .: a) other support obligations of the parties; b) other income in the household; c) age and sex of children; and d) assets of the parties." The preamble also requires that "[i]f a [hearing officer's] recommendation departs from the guideline grids by more than [a] specified deviation, the hearing officer is required to give an explanation." In other words, the primary focus of the guidelines is the parents' individual incomes rather than the parents' overall financial resources available for child support, and there is a strong, albeit rebuttable, presumption in Chester County that the "guidelines show the typical amount of support

[ 344 Pa. Super. Page 281]

    which a spouse or parent should pay . . . ." Preamble to the ...


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