Constructive Notice is Sufficient in Child Support Cases

April 30, 2010 | Blog, Child Support, Court Decisions

Icon for author Brian Vertz Brian Vertz

In Murphy v. Murphy, a recent Superior Court decision, the father appealed a support order entered in absentia because he claimed that he never received notice of the June 2008 support hearing. The father argued that the notice mailed to him was too late (less than 20 days before the hearing, contrary to Rule 1910.6) and was not adequately proven to have been mailed at all, since the only evidence was the notation “Service Type M” on the scheduling order.

For her part, the mother argued that the father’s appeal was untimely. Father did not appeal the resulting support order, claiming that he never knew of the hearing and was not served with the support order. Instead he filed a Motion to Relist Hearing approximately 39 days after the hearing, on which the trial court did not rule for six months. Father eventually appealed the December 2008 order denying his Motion to Relist, but solely pertaining to the court’s alleged failure to serve notice of the June 2008 hearing. The Superior Court held that the appeal should have been taken from the June 2008 hearing, and that the trial court lost its jurisdiction to act upon the Motion to Relist because it was untimely under 42 Pa.C.S. 5505 (30 day limit on modification or rescission of court orders).

An interesting side note: in Murphy, the trial court imputed an earning capacity for father based upon tax documents issued to the father years ago. The father failed to appear at several hearings or produce evidence of his income, so the trial court felt free to make adverse inferences.

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