Appeal from the Order Entered April 14, 2014, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Family Court Division at No. FD 96-003833-005.
BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., BOWES AND DONOHUE, JJ.
FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.
This is an appeal from a child support order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County requiring appellant, W.E.D. (" Father" ), to pay $1,365 per month for the support of his two children retroactive to May 1, 2013. We affirm.
Father and appellee, J.P.D. (" Mother" ), are the parents of two children, V.D., born in 2003, and W.D., born in 2006. The parties divorced on November 3, 2008. Pursuant to the parties' Property Settlement Agreement, a consent order was entered on September 11, 2008 awarding Mother the allocated monthly amount of $1,500 for child support and $300 for alimony for a period not to exceed 60 months, the term to expire on August 31, 2013.
On May 1, 2013, Father filed a petition seeking modification of his child support order due to the upcoming expiration of the alimony term. On September 6, 2013, the parties appeared before Hearing Officer Peggy Ferber. At the conclusion of the hearing, Hearing Officer Ferber terminated the alimony and modified the child support order to $1,500 per month on an interim basis pending conclusion of the proceedings.
The hearing continued on December 5, 2013. The parties appeared with their experts who had assessed Father's earning capacity for the purpose of calculating his child support obligation. Father's expert assessed him an earning capacity of $45,725 per year. Father's expert took into account the earnings of a computer operator and network administrator with Father's level of experience. Father has no formal education and is no longer personally certified, factors which lessen his potential to earn a higher paying salary. Father testified he works approximately 50 hours a week and earns a salary of $20,000. Mother's expert assessed an earning capacity of $70,833 per year to Father.
There was no issue regarding Mother's income. Mother is employed as an elementary school teacher and beginning in September of 2013 was scheduled to earn a salary of $51,903 for the 2013-2014 school year. Mother testified her net monthly income was $2,979.39 and her monthly budget ranges from $3,820 to $4,320.
Following the hearing, Hearing Officer Ferber entered a recommendation and temporary order directing Father to pay $926.65 monthly to Mother retroactive to May 1, 2013. Mother filed timely exceptions in which she argued the hearing officer erred in crediting the testimony of Father's expert over tat of her expert; the hearing officer failed to add back 100% of Father's expenses that Father testified were paid by his current wife; and the hearing officer erred in failing to grant a
deviation under Pa.R.C.P. 1910.16-5(b)(3), (5), and (7). Father filed cross-exceptions stating the hearing officer erred in determining his annual income.
Following oral argument, the trial court sustained, in part, Mother's and Father's exceptions. The trial court determined Father's income for child support purposes should be calculated at $3,694 per month. This figure was arrived at by using Father's expert's earning capacity of $45,725 per year, $8,880 per year in non-taxed car and phone benefits were added to Father's yearly gross income, and applying applicable taxes. Mother's net monthly income was increased to $3,135 per month. At Mother's request, the trial court assigned both dependency exemptions from the children to her for tax purposes. Using $3,394 per month for Father and $3,135 per month for Mother, and after applying the appropriate shared custody adjustment, Father's guideline child support per month equaled $665. However, the trial court added an upward deviation of $701 due to the substantial additional income in Father's household. As of May 1, 2013, Father's total child support award was set at $1,365. Father filed a timely appeal.
The sole issue for our consideration is as follows:
Did the trial court err and abuse its discretion in ordering a deviation from the presumptively correct recommended guideline amount of child support when the deviation ordered was in an amount greater than 100% of the actual guideline amount of child support, contrary to the evidence presented at trial and in an amount that is punitive and confiscatory?
Father's brief at 6.
Our standard of review in child support matters is well settled:
Appellate review of support matters is governed by an abuse of discretion standard. When evaluating a support order, this Court may only reverse the trial court's determination where the order cannot be sustained on any valid ground. An abuse of discretion is [n]ot merely an error of judgment, but if in reaching a conclusion the law is overridden or misapplied, or the judgment exercised is manifestly unreasonable, or the result of partiality, prejudice, bias or ill-will, as shown by the evidence of record. The ...