Appeal from the Order Entered on June 8, 1987, in the Court of Common Pleas of Wayne County, Civil Division, at No. 324 - 1984 - DR #6.
Stephen A. McBride, Milford, for appellant.
Joseph T. Wright, Jr., Scranton, for appellee.
Wieand, Kelly and Hester, JJ.
[ 372 Pa. Super. Page 559]
This appeal is from a final order denying appellant's petition for special relief. Appellant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to impose a security arrangement on the funds due appellee from the equitable distribution of the parties' marital property in order to insure appellee's payment of child support. We agree; therefore, we reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
The parties were married on September 7, 1969, and have two children, Janvier, age fourteen, and Sarah, age thirteen. On September 5, 1984, the parties separated and the children thereafter resided with appellant-mother. Appellee-father moved to Brazil on October 15, 1984, where he has continued to reside. On December 17, 1984, appellant instituted a divorce action and later amended her complaint to include a child support claim on May 27, 1986. The trial court appointed a master and the parties entered into a
[ 372 Pa. Super. Page 560]
written custody agreement whereby appellant received primary physical and legal custody of the children. The trial court entered a divorce decree on February 24, 1987, and incorporated the master's report which required appellee to pay $200 per month child support, appellant to pay appellee $12,419.43 as part of their equitable distribution, and appellant to receive the family residence as well as personal and investment properties. Appellee filed exceptions to the master's recommendations on February 25, 1987, and a motion to reconsider and/or vacate a decree in divorce on March 5, 1987. However, on March 26, 1987, appellee filed praecipes to discontinue both the exceptions and the motion. On April 30, 1987, appellant filed a petition for special relief requesting the court to secure the remaining funds appellant owed appellee in order to insure future child support payments. The trial court denied appellant's request on June 8, 1987, and she filed this timely appeal.*fn1
The evidence establishes that from the time the parties married, appellee had stated his intent to retire at age fifty. When a hotel owned by the parties was destroyed by fire on November 5, 1978, appellee decided that he would no longer work and that appellant would be required to support the family. Appellant was employed at various jobs while appellee worked sporadically in part-time positions.*fn2 Following his termination of employment as a bartender in 1982, appellee remained unemployed until October 15, 1984, when he moved to Brazil. Prior to moving to Brazil, appellee had changed the names on the parties' joint bank accounts and had obtained a new mailing address to which bank statements were forwarded, all without appellant's knowledge. When appellee left for Brazil, he took with him the bank funds and the childrens' bonds, totaling approximately $86,000. Appellee has not reported any income since his move to Brazil.
[ 372 Pa. Super. Page 561]
Appellant's sole allegation is that the trial court erred by not imposing a trust or requiring a bond for the money due appellee as security for future child support payments.
Our scope of review of a child support order is well established. "Our Court is required to defer to the court below and will not interfere with its determination absent a clear abuse of discretion." Leonard v. Leonard, 353 Pa. Super. 604, 608, 510 A.2d 827, 829 (1986). "A finding of abuse will be made only upon a showing of clear and convincing evidence." Koller v. Koller, 333 Pa. Super. 54, 57, 481 A.2d 1218, 1220 (1984). Although this is a strict standard, this court will not ignore an error ...