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JANET D. ROBERTS v. EDWARD P. FURST (07/17/89)

filed: July 17, 1989.

JANET D. ROBERTS, APPELLANT,
v.
EDWARD P. FURST



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas Civil Division, of York County, No. 433-SA-1973, DRO No. 17703.

COUNSEL

Andrew B. Brown, York, for appellant.

Douglas R. Bare, York, for appellee.

Rowley, Popovich and Johnson, JJ.

Author: Rowley

[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 531]

The parties to this appeal, appellant Janet Roberts ("Mother") and appellee Edward Furst ("Father"), were divorced in 1973. They are the parents of Charlotte, born December 11, 1970, and Jennifer, born March 2, 1973. The children reside with Mother, her present husband, Garry Roberts ("Roberts"), and two children born to Mother and Roberts. Father paid child support to Mother until March 15, 1978, when Father, Mother, and Roberts entered into an agreement releasing Father from any further child support obligation in exchange for Father's payment of $9,000.00 to Mother and Roberts. The agreement specifically provides that Mother and Roberts will provide support and maintenance for the children in lieu of Father's support and that they will execute a judgment note in the amount of $9,000.00 as security for Mother's promise not to make any further claim for support against Father.

All concerned abided by the agreement until March 21, 1988, when Mother filed a complaint for child support against Father. In an order entered May 10, 1988, Father was ordered to pay child support of $95.00 per week. The case was certified as complex and a hearing was held, following which, on October 14, 1988, the trial court entered an order reversing the order of support and dismissing Mother's complaint.

In this timely appeal of the October 14, 1988, order, Mother contends that the agreement signed in 1978 violates public policy and the principle of law, set forth in Miesen v. Frank, 361 Pa. Super. 204, 208, 522 A.2d 85, 87 (1987), that a parent cannot contract away a minor child's right to adequate support from the other parent. In addition, she asserts that the agreement was executed as a result of undue influence, coercion, and overreaching on the part of Father and his counsel. Mother asks this Court to find the agreement null and void and to reinstate the support order

[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 532]

    of $95.00 per week, retroactive to October 14, 1988. We affirm the order of the trial court.

Regarding Mother's first claim, we note that in Miesen v. Frank, supra, appellee/mother agreed to be solely responsible for the support of the parties' children and to indemnify appellant/father for any amount of support ever claimed by the children against him. The present case, in which Roberts as well as Mother has taken on the responsibility of supporting the children, is factually similar to Commonwealth v. Cameron, 197 Pa. Super. 403, 179 A.2d 270 (1962). In that case, mother and father were divorced, mother remarried, and mother and her husband entered into a written agreement releasing father from liability for support and expressing mother's husband's willingness to assume parental duties. This Court upheld the trial court's refusal to impose a support obligation upon father, explaining that although one parent cannot bargain away a child's right to adequate support from the other, an agreement in which one parent releases the other from the duty of support will be enforced so long as it is fair and reasonable, was made without fraud or coercion, and does not prejudice the welfare of the children involved. Id., 197 Pa. Superior Ct. at 406, 179 A.2d at 272. We decline to find, as Mother urges us to do, that this Court's holding in Cameron is outdated and/or has been implicitly overruled by Miesen v. Frank.

As the trial court points out, Mother and Roberts "have a total gross income of $54,000-$58,000 per year, and are financially able to support the two children" (Trial Court Opinion at 5). Mother testified that after releasing Father from his support obligation, she and Roberts, with some help from her parents, have been able to meet the children's needs (N.T. at 13). Asked why she filed the support action against Father, she testified as follows:

A: In all honesty, I never realized how much it costs to raise kids. Prices have gone up. You just don't realize all the incidentals. And talking with other people, they said the ...


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