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D.R.M. v. N.K.M.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

December 23, 2016

D.R.M., APPELLANT
v.
N.K.M.

         Appeal from the Order March 31, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County Civil Division at No(s): 2010-8597

          BEFORE: STABILE, J., DUBOW, J., and STEVENS, P.J.E. [*]

          OPINION

          DUBOW, J.

         Appellant, D.R.M. ("Mother"), appeals from the March 31, 2016 Order denying her Application for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP Petition") that Mother filed in conjunction with numerous appeals she has filed in an acrimonious custody dispute between Mother and Appellee, N.K.M. ("Father"). After careful review, we affirm the trial court's denial of Mother's IFP status and find, inter alia, that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it included income from tax credits and refunds in its calculation of income for purposes of IFP eligibililty.

         A detailed recitation of the custody dispute between Mother and Father is not necessary to our disposition of the IFP Petition. In sum, Mother initiated a custody dispute in 2009 regarding Mother and Father's two children and the dispute continues until today.

         On February 23, 2016, the trial court found Mother in contempt of the existing Custody Order. Order, 2/23/16. On March 2, 2016, the trial court ordered, among other things, that the parties' two minor children attend counseling sessions. Order, 3/2/16. Mother, in contemplation of appealing those two orders, filed the instant IFP Petition. After a hearing, the trial court denied the IFP Petition on March 31, 2016.

         Mother timely appealed, and both Mother and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.

         Mother raises the following issues on appeal:

1. Whether the Lower Court erred as a matter of law, and therefore abused its discretion, when it failed to provide a brief statement of its reason for denying [Mother]'s IFP [P]etition thereby denying [Mother] the ability to cure any defects.
2. Whether the Lower Court erred as a matter of law, and therefore abused its discretion, when it failed to disclose during the evidentiary hearing why it was "inclin[ed] not to grant" [Mother]'s IFP [P]etition, thereby preventing her from presenting testimony that would have addressed the court's concerns.
3. Whether the Lower Court erred as a matter of law, and therefore abused its discretion, when it failed to disclose the standard and/or guideline it used to determine IFP eligibility where Pa.R.C.P. 240 and Delaware County Local Rules are silent on providing such disclosures.
4. Whether the Lower Court erred as a matter of law, and therefore abused its discretion, when it included Appellant's 2015 federal Earned Income Credit (EIC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) as income for IFP eligibility purposes, when such amounts are "benefits" awarded by the Internal Revenue Service and as such are not included as income of indigent persons seeking assistance from federal and/or federally funded programs.
5. Whether the Lower Court erred as a matter of law, and therefore abused its discretion, when it considered [Mother]'s gross income and not net income in determining IFP eligibility and "financial resources."
6. Whether the Lower Court erred as a matter of law, and therefore abused its discretion, when it sought and considered testimony regarding [Mother]'s "unusual expenses" instead of ordinary ...

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