Unsuccessful Defense of Support Obligation Affirmed

Three related issues were addressed by the Superior Court last month in SMC v. WPC, 2012 PA Super 92 (April 24, 2012). First, the Superior Court held that evidence of post-separation misconduct rising to the level of indignities is not sufficient to establish a defense to spousal support unless it sheds light upon similar misconduct prior to separation. More specifically, the Court affirmed a decision not to deny spousal support to a wife just because she began to date another man after separation. The Court also went to great lengths to dismiss the husband’s contention that his wife was guilty of indignities for going on a singles cruise with friends over his objection. While acknowledging that a wide variety of misbehavior might be considered “indignities,” the Court emphasized that a single instance was not sufficient to merit a fault-based divorce (or entitlement defense in a support action). The Court also reviewed case law defining an “adequate legal cause” for vacating the marital residence to refute husband’s contention that his wife forfeited her right to spousal support by abandoning him.

Second, the Superior Court dismissed husband’s appeal from the trial court’s finding that he had divested his stock in a family business merely to avoid his support obligation. Holding that husband cited no legal authority to support his argument, the issue was waived.

Finally, the Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s award of legal fees to the wife in the support proceeding. Holding that it is not necessary to find misconduct in order to award fees, the court relied upon the disparity between wife’s net income and husband’s net income. This finding was affirmed on appeal

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