SAMANTHA A. COFFMAN Appellant
EREK L. KLINE
from the Order Entered March 24, 2016 In the Court of Common
Pleas of Lehigh County Domestic Relations at No(s):
DR-11-01287 PACSES Case No. 174112443
BEFORE: BOWES, MOULTON AND MUSMANNO, JJ.
A. Coffman ("Mother") appeals from the March 24,
2016 order dismissing with prejudice a petition for contempt
filed on her behalf by the Lehigh County Domestic Relations
Section ("DRS"). We reverse.
pertinent facts are as follows. One child, K.A.C., was born
of a relationship between Derek L. Kline ("Father")
and Mother during April 2011. On July 6, 2011, Mother filed a
complaint for support. On January 31, 2014, the trial court
issued an order directing Father to pay child support of
$408.00 per month and arrearages totaling $17, 029.60. On
June 11, 2014, DRS terminated Father's support since
Mother no longer had custody of K.A.C.
December 18, 2014, Mother filed a second complaint for child
support after regaining custody of K.A.C. Thereafter, on
January 30, 2015, the court issued an order directing Father
to pay support in the amount of $602.04 per month, and noted
arrearages tallying $13, 890.32. Subsequently, DRS became
aware that Father was negotiating a compromise and release
settlement with his employer relating to an injury he
sustained at work. On March 12, 2015, DRS issued a
non-disbursement order pursuant to its authority under 23
Pa.C.S. § 4305, and served it on Sedgwick Claims
Management Services ("Sedgwick"), a third-party
workers' compensation claim servicer. That order
precluded Sedgwick from disbursing any settlement payment
owed to Father as a result of his workers' compensation
claim until further directed by the court.
ultimately entered into a settlement agreement with his
employer. A workers' compensation judge ("WCJ")
approved the parties' compromise and release agreement by
order dated September 10, 2015. The WCJ found that Father had
a child support lien against him for arrearages in the amount
of $14, 983.10. It noted that Father's settlement, which
amounted to $3, 400.00, after $850.00 in counsel fees were
deducted, fell below the statutory threshold of $5, 000.00
enumerated in 23 Pa.C.S. § 4308.1(i) regarding child
support liens by operation of law. Thus, notwithstanding the
non-disbursement order, Sedgwick, relying on the WCJ's
order, released the entire settlement payment to Father.
January 15, 2016, DRS filed a petition for contempt for
Mother's benefit against Sedgwick alleging that its
disbursement of the settlement agreement contravened its
March 10, 2015 non-disbursement order. After holding a
hearing on the matter, the court dismissed the petition for
contempt with prejudice. Mother filed this timely appeal. The
court did not direct Mother to file a Rule 1925(b) concise
statement of matters complained of on appeal, but it did file
a Rule 1925(a) opinion. This matter is now ready for our
raises two issues for our consideration:
A. Whether the trial court erred in dismissing the petition
B. Whether the trial court abused its discretion by
misapplying 23 Pa.C.S. [§] 4308.1 despite the existence
of a non-disbursement order pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. §
4305 in light of Campbell v. Walker[, 982 A.2d 1013
Mother's brief at 4 (unnecessary capitalization omitted).
we must consider whether this matter is properly before us.
In its Rule 1925(a) opinion, the trial court suggests that
this appeal should be quashed due to Mother's failure to
serve copies of the notice of appeal upon the court or the
trial court reporter in violation of Pa.R.A.P.
Mother responds that she in fact served the trial court by
hand- delivery, as noted in the certificate of service, but
concedes that she failed to serve the court reporter. We
observe, "[w]hen an appellant fails to serve the notice
of appeal on the trial court per Rule 906(a)(2), this Court
has discretion to take any appropriate action, including
remand to the trial court for the completion of omitted
procedural steps." Casselbury v. American Food
Service, 30 A.3d 510, 511 n.1 (Pa.Super. 2011) (citation
omitted). Where a party's procedural missteps do not
affect the validity of the appeal, remand is not required.
Id. Here, the trial court issued a Rule 1925(a)
opinion adopting its reasoning from the March 24, 2016 order
in support of its decision. Both parties filed briefs fully
outlining their respective positions. As such, Mother's
error has not hindered appellate review, and quashal is not
necessary. Hence, we will reach the merits of this appeal.
ease of disposition, we review Mother's contentions in
reverse order. Mother's second issue challenges the trial
court's application of 23 Pa.C.S. § 4308.1 to
Father's workers' compensation settlement agreement.
As with all questions of the interpretation and application
of a statute, our standard of review is de novo, and
our scope of review is plenary. In re Adoption
of R.A.B., 153 A.3d 332, 334 (Pa.Super. 2016). Moreover,
this Court is
constrained by the rules of statutory interpretation,
particularly as found in the Statutory Construction Act. 1
Pa.C.S. §§ 1501-1991. The goal in interpretation
any statute is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of
the General Assembly. Our Supreme Court has stated that the
plain language of a statute is in general the best indication
of the legislative intent that gave rise to the statute. When
the language is clear, explicit, and free from any ambiguity,
we discern intent from the language alone, and not from the
arguments based on legislative history or "spirit"
of the statute. We must construe words and phrases in the
statue according to their common and approved usage. We also
must construe a statute in such a way as to give effect to
all its provisions, if possible, thereby avoiding the need to
label any provision as mere surplusage.
Id. (citation omitted).
finding Sedgwick was not in contempt of court, the trial
court reasoned that Father's settlement payment of $3,
400.00 was subject to § 4308.1 of the Domestic Relations
Act ("Act") since § 4305, which DRS relied
upon in issuing the non-disbursement order, "does not
set forth the mechanism of how such powers are to be
implemented." Trial Court Order, 3/24/16, at 2. The
court determined that Father's award fell below the
statutory threshold contained within § 4308.1, discussed
further infra, and therefore, "there was no
recoverable child support lien by operation of law."
Id. at 3. As a result, the court found Sedgwick had
followed the procedure for distribution of a settlement as
outlined in § 4308.1 and, thus, Sedgwick was not in
contempt of court.
assails the court's ruling, maintaining that the
non-disbursement order filed and served on Sedgwick was a
valid exercise of DRS's authority pursuant to § 4305
of the Act. Further, she contends that this Court previously
analyzed the interplay between §§ 4305 and 4308.1
in Campbell v. Walker, 982 A.2d 1013 (Pa.Super.
2009), and thus, that case controls this ...