Homeschooling Children Does Not Justify Alimony, says Superior Court

In Kent v. Kent¬†(March 18, 2011), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania rejected a parent’s argument that she should be entitled to collect alimony for a period of eleven years so that she could continue to homeschool the parties’ minor children. It was undisputed in this case that the mother had withdrawn from the workforce five years earlier in order to home-school the parties’ children, which she continued to do up to the date of trial. The wife had resigned her position as a teacher and began to collect a reduced public pension in order to supplement the family’s finances. The husband argued that homeschooling was not a joint decision and did not require so much of wife’s time as to prevent her from working. The trial court awarded alimony to wife for a period of three years rather than the requested eleven years.

On appeal, the Superior Court cited the paucity of controlling case law. The Court observed that a body of law concerning the payment of private school tuition (Fitzgerald, Gibbons, et al) did not control, since those cases were governed by the child support guidelines, not the statutory alimony criteria (where a spouse’s ability to become self-supporting through appropriate employment is paramount). Instead, the Court relied upon a decision of the Arkansas Supreme Court, holding that alimony was appropriate where the homeschooling parent had no employable skills, education or experience.

Examining the wife’s work history in this case, the Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s finding that the homeschooling wife was capable of returning to work within three years. The Court also endorsed the husband’s reasoning that economic decisions made during coverture might no longer be viable when an intact family breaks into two separate households. The Court emphasized that its decision was not motivated by a policy against homeschooling, but a simple affirmance of the trial court’s application of statutory criteria.

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