Appeal from the Order entered April 27, 1987, Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County, Civil Division at Nos. 82-4854 & 105294-3.
Margaret P. Joy, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Rosemary Markham, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
McEwen, Del Sole and Johnson, JJ.
[ 375 Pa. Super. Page 214]
This is an action for child support. Appellant Linda H. DeNomme (Wife) appeals from the denial of her exceptions to the hearing officer's recommendation that appellee Thomas K. DeNomme (Husband) is not obligated to support his ex-stepson. We affirm.
The parties were married in 1975, separated for the final time in February of 1983 and divorced in April of 1983. This was the second marriage for both. Husband supports a child from his first marriage. From his marriage with Wife, Husband also has a natural child, David Matthew DeNomme (Matthew), whom he also supports. James DeNomme (James), the child whose support is at issue in the present case, is the child of Wife's previous marriage to James Q. Arthur of Wood County, West Virginia. Wife and Arthur were divorced in 1975. Although Arthur was granted custody of James, Wife retained physical custody of the child and brought him to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Wife was granted custody of James in 1977. N.T., 6/4/82 at 28.
It is undisputed that, during the eight-year marriage, Husband expressly assumed full parental obligation for James, including financial support. James was two years old when the parties married. James was known as James DeNomme at Husband's insistence. N.T. of 6/4/82 at 40. Husband and Wife sought legal counsel concerning Husband's adoption of James, but the plan had not reached fruition by the time of the separation.
After the parties' initial separation, in 1982, the Honorable Lawrence W. Kaplan, in his July 13, 1982 ruling on exceptions to the Hearing Officer's recommendations for support and alimony pendente lite, found Husband obligated to pay support because he stood in loco parentis to James. Judge Kaplan subsequently granted the parties' divorce by decree of April 15, 1983. On May 9, 1983 Hearing Officer Beatrice Longo ordered support for both children but also directed Wife to pursue a support action in
[ 375 Pa. Super. Page 215]
West Virginia against the natural father. In response to Husband's exceptions to the recommendations for support, the Honorable William L. Standish ordered, on June 27, 1983, that Husband pay support for both children. Wife initiated an action under the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, 23 Pa.C.S. §§ 4501 et seq., against the natural father but did not pursue it. Husband's appeal to this Court was subsequently dismissed for failure to prosecute.
Subsequently, both parties filed petitions for modification of support and for contempt through 1985 and 1986. The 1986 contempt claims were consolidated with the economic claims in the divorce and equitable distribution proceeding before the Honorable R. Stanton Wettick. On September 25, 1986 Judge Wettick filed his opinion and order disposing of all issues before him. He ruled that no prior disposition in the case resolved the issue of whether Husband was permanently obligated to provide support for James.
Judge Wettick then referred Wife's request for child support for James to the Hearing Officer. Recommendations were filed following a hearing on February 7, 1987 in which it was determined that Husband was not obligated to support James. Husband was to provide alimony and support of $900.00 for Wife and Matthew only, plus two-thirds of the unreimbursed medical, dental and psychological costs for Matthew, not to exceed $100.00 per month. Wife filed exceptions on February 18, 1987 challenging, among other findings, the Hearing Officer's finding that Husband was not obligated to support James. She argued that prior rulings in the course of the controversy were to the contrary and thus established a law of the case. She also disputed the findings of the Hearing Officer that she had failed to vigorously pursue James' natural father for support.
Following the filing of exceptions, the trial court dismissed the exceptions by order of April 27, ...