PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION REGARDING PENNSYLVANIA HOUSE BILL NO. 1250 PN 1494
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania House Bill No. 1250, Printer's No. 1494("House Bill 1250") directly conflicts with 23 Pa. C.S.A. § 4322, adopted in 1985, which states that alimony pendente lite or spousal support shall be awarded pursuant to a Statewide guideline as established by general rule of the Supreme Court so that (a) persons similarly situated shall be treated similarly, (b) the guidelines shall place the primary emphasis on the net incomes or earning capacities of the parties with allowable deviations and (c) the guideline support amount shall be a rebuttable presumption of the proper amount of support; and
WHEREAS, House Bill 1250 contradicts well-established policies in spousal support and alimony pendente lite actions, which ensure that one party not be placed at a financial disadvantage during a separation and/or divorce litigation by placing the parties on similar economic footing during the pendency of their divorce; and
WHEREAS, House Bill 1250 also is in direct conflict with the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines promulgated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court at Pa. R.C.P. 1910.16-4, which calculates awards of alimony pendente lite and spousal support as a rebuttable presumption subject to deviations expressly set forth at Pa. R.C.P. 1910.16-5, which includes a case specific deviation at Pa. R.C.P. 1910.16-5(b)(9) based on "other relevant and appropriate factors;" and
WHEREAS, House Bill 1250 directly conflicts with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court case of Mascaro v. Mascaro, 803 A.2d 1186 (Pa. 2002) which approved the use of the Guidelines in spousal support cases and specifically held that "[d]etermining spousal support solely on the parties' net incomes and the obligor's other support obligations treats similarly situated persons similarly, which is the goal expressed in Section 4322 of the Divorce Code (Support Guidelines). Allowing for deviations from the presumptive amount of support by permitting the trier of fact to consider the factors set forth in Rule 1910.16-5 prevents the goal of uniformity from leading to an unnecessarily harsh result where findings of fact justify the amount of the deviation. Furthermore, by emphasizing the parties' income instead of their standard of living, the guideline formula obviates the need for inquiry into details of the parties' frugality or extravagance with regard to clothing, entertainment, household expenses, etc. Thus, under the guideline formula, the obligee will not be prejudiced by the fact that during the marriage the obligor required him or her to live below the parties' means. Conversely, an obligor whose spouse spent profligately during the marriage will not be required to fund such a lifestyle unless it can be justified by the parties' income." Id. at 1193; and
WHEREAS, House Bill 1250 will require our family court judges and support masters to conduct a detailed, subjective, and overly burdensome inquiry in all spousal support and alimony pendente lite cases to determine the petitioning spouse's "basic needs," regardless of the incomes of the parties; and
WHEREAS, this practice will prevent resolution of spousal support and alimony pendente lite matters at the Domestic Relations conference level within the courts, demand additional judicial resources and further tax an already backlogged court system; and
WHEREAS, adoption of House Bill 1250 will unnecessarily delay the resolution of spousal support and alimony pendente lite claims as well as child support claims (which are often combined and consolidated with claims for spousal support and alimony pendente lite) thereby not giving primary consideration to the welfare of the family during the divorce process and failing to mitigate the harm to economically-dependent spouses and their children caused by the dissolution of marriage; and
WHEREAS, House Bill 1250 eliminates the formulaic predictability of spousal support and alimony pendente lite awards by disallowing a presumptive amount of support to be calculated; and
WHEREAS, absent this predictability, parties will be less likely to amicably resolve actions for support involving spousal support and alimony pendente lite; and
WHEREAS, if House Bill 1250 is enacted, the process necessary to determine that alimony pendente lite or spousal support is warranted will exacerbate the contentious nature of the relationships between divorcing spouses; and
WHEREAS, the resulting increase in strained relations between parties will have a negative impact, trickling down to the children involved in these matters; and
WHEREAS, House Bill 1250 will cause devastating effects on financially dependent spouses involved in or considering divorce litigation by limiting and delaying an award of support for that spouse's "basic needs" and without consideration of the entirety of the income available for support to maintain the families' standard of living during the parties' marriage; and
WHEREAS, significant inequities will likely result if a financially dependent spouse is unable to share in post-separation payments of income to the financially independent spouse (such as bonuses, buyouts, severance payments, etc.) and
WHEREAS, this provides the financially independent spouse with an unfair financial advantage in prosecuting and defending a divorce action, which contradicts the intent and purpose of alimony pendente lite. See DeMasi v. DeMasi, 597 A.2d 101 (Pa. Super. 1991) (alimony pendente lite "is based on the need of one party to have equal financial resources to pursue a divorce proceeding when, in theory, the other party has major assets which are the financial sinews of domestic warfare").
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association calls on the General Assembly to oppose House Bill 1250, Printer's No 1494 or any similar legislation that would disallow a presumptive amount of support to be calculated based on Pennsylvania Support Guidelines.
AND, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes the Chancellor and/or the Chancellor's designee(s) to communicate the Philadelphia Bar Association's position on House Bill 1250, Printer's No 1494 and any similar legislation to the Governor, the General Assembly and the public and take whatever action is necessary to effectuate this resolution.
PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: May 24, 2017