Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Civil at No. 81-63726-S-10.
Richard H. Pratt, Doylestown, for appellant.
John D. Blumenthal, Doylestown, for appellee.
Cirillo, President Judge, and Rowley and Montemuro, JJ.
[ 386 Pa. Super. Page 491]
Appellant, Robin Sladek, appeals from an order increasing his child support payments, claiming that the trial court erred in granting an increase where appellee, Dolores Sladek, failed to prove a material change in circumstances justifying modification. Because we agree with appellant that no material change in circumstances justifying an increase was established by appellee, we reverse.
[ 386 Pa. Super. Page 492]
The parties are the parents of three children, Jennifer, Melissa, and Jonathan, respectively aged 19, 15, and 13 at time of hearing. In 1981, appellant began paying support for all three children pursuant to a court order.*fn1 At that time, the children then 12, 8, and 6, were all living with the appellee. A change in the amount of support occurred in August of 1986, when the oldest child began residing with appellant. The court reduced the order to $500/month, which represented support for the two youngest children only. This amount was increased to $600/month in 1988 when appellee petitioned the court for modification based solely upon a rise in the cost of living. Although no specific instances of increased child-related expenses were outlined by appellee,*fn2 the trial court granted her petition. It is from the 1988 order that appellant appeals.
When modification of a child support order is sought, the moving party has the burden of proving by competent evidence that a material and substantial change of circumstances has occurred since the entry of the original or modified support order. Steinmetz v. Steinmetz, 381 Pa. Super. 440, 554 A.2d 83, 85 (1989); Shutter v. Reilly, 372 Pa. Super. 251, 255, 539 A.2d 424, 426 (1988). The lower court must consider all pertinent circumstances and base its decision upon facts appearing in the record which indicate that the moving party did or did not meet the burden of proof as to changed conditions. Lampa v. Lampa, 371 Pa. Super. 1, 9, 537 A.2d 350, 352 (1988). We will not disturb a child support order unless the trial court, in determining the amount of support, has abused its discretion.
[ 386 Pa. Super. Page 493]
years later, the trial court raised the amount to $450.00/month based solely upon the advancing age of the children. The expenses necessitating the increase included private school, membership at a swimming club, medical bills, toys, food, baby-sitting fees, and psychiatric care for one of the children. We held that such a large increase constituted an abuse of discretion where the only significant change was the increased age of the children which made them eligible for school attendance, and we reduced the amount to $250.00 per month. Id. 210 Pa. Super. at 249, 232 A.2d at 78. Although we upheld an increase in the amount of support based on the incidence of age-related expenses, we did so only after the petitioner had presented specific instances of these greater expenditures.
In Commonwealth ex. rel. Luongo v. Tillye, 229 Pa. Super. 453, 458, 323 A.2d 172, 174 (1974), our recognition that "the increased expenditures which are incurred by reason of the needs of growing children are important items to consider in support modification proceedings," was predicated upon a situation in which ten years had passed since the original support order was entered, and the child had grown from a year old infant into an eleven year old boy who was attending Catholic school. In that case, we held that the trial court's $20.00 per month increase in child support did not adequately measure the cost of living factor between 1963 and 1973, let alone consider the change in the father's financial situation and the increased needs of an older boy. Id., 229 Pa. Superior Ct. at 458, 323 A.2d at 174. As in Balph, the mother in Tillye made specific references to increases in expenditures caused by the child's advancing age which necessitated the increase in support, such as her purchase of the home in which she and her son were living, the child's school tuition, the child's dental and clothing bills, and her desire to allow his participation in such activities as Boy Scout Camp.
In Forry, supra, we reversed the trial court's denial of an increase in child support, which was based upon the conclusion that the only proof of a needed increase was the mother's ...