Spousal Support Cases

Pennsylvania Superior and Supreme Court cases involving spousal support, APL, and alimony

  • Berry v. Berry – Marital assets are not considered income for PA support purposes under PA Child Support Guidelines ; severance pay equals income for calculation of PA child support order.
  • Godfrey v. Godfrey – A defendant who has been found to be in willful noncompliance of a PA support obligation and found in civil contempt of the support order may be sentenced to jail for up to 6 months, given a fine of up to $1,000, or up to 1 year probation; however, court must set a purge condition allowing defendant to be released from jail. Trial court must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has the present ability to comply with purge condition. Appellate court also held that both parties in a support action must supply court with any changes in address within 7 days or else notice of hearings sent to prior address will not excuse failure to appear at hearing.
  • Ney v. Ney – The trial court was found to have committed an error when the judge performed an internet search of jobs in father’s field of employment and relied on the results in accessing the credibility of father in testifying at his support hearing that his income had decreased and no jobs were available in his area at his former wages.
  • Kraisinger v. Kraisinger – The parties entered into a marriage settlement agreement that provided that husband would make the payments for the mortgage on wife’s residence. In addition, husband would pay $500 per month per child for child support. The agreement also contained a clause indicating that if wife filed to modify her child support, she would be required to pay husband’s counsel fees. Wife filed for modification of child support. Husband argued that her child support should not be modified given he was paying both the mortgage and child support. The Superior Court held that although one parent cannot bargain away a child’s right to adequate support from the other, an agreement in which one parent releases the other from the duty of support will be enforced so long as it is fair and reasonable, was made without fraud or coercion, and does not prejudice the welfare of the children involved. Here the Court found Husband’s mortgage payments to be his obligation under equitable distribution and not support. Therefore, the Court found that wife was entitled to seek modification of support and that the provision for attorney’s fees was unenforceable.
  • Gates v. Gates – The parties’ prenuptial (antenuptial) agreement excluded husband’s business valued at $1 million dollars and any increase in value. Husband also inherited $2 million from his mother. Husband was awarded primary physical custody of the parties’ minor child arguing in the parties’ custody case that wife was mentally unstable. The Superior Court upheld an award to wife of alimony in the amount of $4,000 per month and a total of $27,000 in counsel fees reasoning that Husband’s argument of wife’s instability in the custody case justified finding her inability to work in the alimony matter.

NOTE: The cases listed are for informational purposes only and may have been amended or overturned by subsequently decided court cases.