Appeal from the Order entered April 29, 1987 in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton, County, Civil Division, No. DR-127581.
Richard J. Shiroff, Easton, for appellant.
Cavanaugh, McEwen and Kelly, JJ.
This is an appeal from an order directing modification of child support for two minor children. Appellant, Mia Joy Lampa argues that the trial court improperly excluded from its consideration the legitimate expenses attendant to raising these children, and failed to follow the dictates of Melzer v. Witsberger, 505 Pa. 462, 480 A.2d 991 (1984) and county guidelines promulgated pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 4322. We agree, and accordingly reverse the trial court's order and remand with directions for further proceedings.
The parties to this appeal were separated in 1981; appellant retained custody of the two children. A consent order was entered later in 1981 whereby appellee, Craig Monroe Lampa agreed to pay $115.00 per week for support of the children. On July 21, 1984, appellee purchased a lucrative photography business and left his former employment to manage the business. On January 8, 1985, based upon appellee's change in circumstances, appellant petitioned for modification and increase of the support order. A support conference was held, and the parties failed to reach agreement. The court dismissed the petition on February 28, 1985 and ordered the support obligation continued at $115.00 weekly.
Both parties requested a de novo hearing following entry of this order. The trial court then, on April 10, 1985, reduced the appellee's support obligation to $67.00 weekly. Appellant appealed the order to this Court. We reversed the order and remanded for further proceedings.
On remand, support hearings were held on October 22, 1986 and November 26, 1986 before a Domestic Relations (Special) Master; the Master recommended the appellee's support obligation be increased to $169.00 weekly based upon the county guidelines, the Melzer formulations, the needs of the children and the parties' individual circumstances, including the income of appellee's second wife. (See Master's Report filed January 28, 1987). However, on review of the Master's recommendation, the court rejected the Master's computations of appellee's disposable income,
and of appellant's reasonable and necessary expenses associated with her custodial care of the children. On April 29, 1987, the court entered an order, also using the Melzer formula, increasing the support obligation to $121.00 weekly (an increase of only $6.00 over the previous court order of $115.00). Appellant's timely appeal to this Court followed.
Appellant contends the court abused its discretion as the court: impermissibly reduced the amount of mortgage payments and household expenses attributable to the reasonable needs of the children; disallowed any expenses for automobile maintenance; disallowed any expenses for baby-sitting; failed to include appellee's spouse's income when calculating appellee's disposable income; and failed to adequately consider the county support guidelines.*fn1 We agree that the trial court erred in reducing or disallowing reasonable and necessary expenses in child-rearing and therefore we reverse the order.
Our standard of review is such that we will not overturn a child support order unless the court abused its discretion in fashioning the award. Such abuse will be found where there is insufficient evidence to sustain the award or where the law is overridden or misapplied. Fee v. Fee, 344 Pa. Super. 276, 496 A.2d 793 (1985).
At the outset, we note that there were material changes in circumstances which would justify modifying the support order. In a petition to modify a support order, the petitioner carries the burden of proving by competent evidence that a material and substantial change of circumstances has occurred since the entry of the original support order. Palmatier v. MacCartney, 365 Pa. Super. 300, 529 A.2d 518 (1987); Koller v. Koller, 333 Pa. Super. 54, 57, 481 ...