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Somerset County Children and Youth Services v. H.B.R.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

January 31, 2017

SOMERSET COUNTY CHILDREN AND YOUTH SERVICES, Appellant
v.
H.B.R., Appellee

         Appeal from the Order Entered May 6, 2016 in the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County Domestic Relations at No(s): 0005402

          BEFORE: LAZARUS, SOLANO, AND STRASSBURGER, [*] JJ.

          OPINION

          STRASSBURGER, J.

         Somerset County Children and Youth Services (CYS) appeals from the order entered May 6, 2016, terminating H.B.R.'s (Father's) child support obligation to his son B.R. (Child). After careful review, we affirm.

         The trial court summarized the pertinent factual and procedural history as follows.

On August 22, 2013, [Child] was put into placement pursuant to court order, with placement costs totaling approximately $24.00 per day. CYS filed a complaint for support against [Father] on September 6, 2013. A conference was scheduled for October 15, 2013, after which [the trial court] entered an interim order for support against [Father] in the amount of [$220.00] per month, 1 including, pursuant to the support guidelines, a $197.51 support obligation, and $22.49 for arrears.
1 The interim order specified $220.00 per month however the case file includes an order of Attachment of Unemployment Compensation Benefits which directs that $230.00 per month be attached. Similarly an income withholding for support form communicated to GNH Trucking, Inc., presumably [Father's] employer at the time, also specified that $230.00 per month be withheld. [The trial court] is unsure of the reason for the [$10.00] discrepancy between our interim order and the attachment/withholding forms.
On October 29, 2015, [Father] filed a petition for modification of an existing support order wherein [Father] sought termination of his support obligation because [Child] had turned eighteen years old and graduated from high school. On November 3, 2015, [the trial court] scheduled a modification conference for November 25, 2015, and on December 2, 2015, [the trial court] terminated the support order without prejudice, having stated the following rationale: "[Child] has graduated from high school and has reached the age of emancipation. [Child] still remains in placement, but for child support purposes[, ] [Child] has been emancipated."
On December 21, 2015, CYS filed a demand for hearing contesting the termination of [Father's] support obligation because, "[Child] is not emancipated. [Child] continues to be a dependent child under the jurisdiction of the [lower court]. Therefore [Father] is still responsible for support while [C]hild is not in [Father's] care." The [trial court] scheduled a de novo hearing for January 19, 2016; however, [Father] was scheduled for a two-day criminal jury trial beginning on that date. [The trial court] therefore rescheduled the de novo hearing for March 10, 2016.
In the meantime, on January 20, 2016, [Father's] jury trial resulted in a verdict of guilty, and [Father] was sentenced on April 18, 2016 to, inter alia, a minimum of thirty-six months, and a maximum of one hundred twenty months, in a state correctional institution. On March 10, 2016 - that is, between [Father's] guilty verdict and his sentencing-[the trial court] conducted the de novo hearing, and [] took the matter under advisement.

Trial Court Opinion, 5/6/2016, at 1-2 (unnecessary capitalization and some footnotes omitted).

         On May 6, 2016, the trial court issued an order re-affirming its December 2, 2015 order terminating Father's support obligation, "without prejudice to the right of CYS to pursue recovery under 62 Pa.C.S.[] § 704.1(e)." This timely-filed appeal followed.[1]

         CYS raises the following issues on appeal, which we have reordered for ease of disposition.

[I.] Whether the trial court committed an abuse of discretion or committed an error of law by terminating the ...

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