In this appeal of a parental support order, we are asked to determine whether a person is indigent, within the meaning of Section 3 of the Support Law of 1937 (Support Law), 62 P.S. § 1973, when her reasonable living expenses exceed her Social Security benefits, her sole source of income. We are also asked to determine whether the classification of relatives liable for support of indigent persons in Section 1973(a) of the Support Law has been repealed by the 1976 Amendments to the Public Welfare Code of 1967, 62 P.S. § 432.6, the classification of legally responsible relatives of public assistance applicants. With respect to the former, we apply the common law definition of indigent to Section 1973 and conclude that a person is indigent if her reasonable living expenses exceed her Social Security benefits, her sole source of income. With respect to the latter, this Court answered that question in Verna v. Verna, 288 Pa.Super. 511, 432 A.2d 630 (1981), and we now reaffirm our determination that Section 432.6 did not repeal the classification of relatives liable for the support of indigent persons in Section 1973(a). Accordingly, we affirm the order directing Marcus J. Savoy (Son) to pay $125 per month directly to the medical care providers of Joan M. Savoy (Mother) for her past medical care expenses.
Prior to 1986, Mother had been financially independent and regularly employed. In early 1986, Mother initially became unemployed to undergo and to recover from neck surgery. When she returned to work, Mother slipped and fell, sustaining soft tissue injuries to her head, neck, and back, and a broken right ankle. Since her fall, Mother has been unemployed
Son is an officer, shareholder, and manager in the family-owned furniture manufacturing business. Son, who has no dependents, has a net monthly income of $2,327 per month. Son's reported net monthly expenses are $2,583 per month, an amount in excess of his income.
In September 1989, Mother filed a Complaint for Support, pursuant to 62 P.S. § 1973, against Son. Son filed Preliminary Objections in the nature of a demurrer challenging the statutory basis of the support request and alleging that Mother lacked standing to bring the support action. The trial court denied Son's Preliminary Objections and ordered that a hearing be scheduled before a Master. The Master conducted hearings on April 3, April 25, and May 30, 1990. On June 26, 1990, the Master filed a proposed order directing Son to financially assist Mother by paying $125 per month to her medical care providers for past medical care expenses. Son filed exceptions to the Master's proposed order, and Mother filed cross-exceptions which she later withdrew. The parties requested that the trial court delay its decision on the exceptions to permit the negotiation of a settlement. The parties were unsuccessful in their attempt to negotiate a settlement, and after a significant lapse of time, Mother asked the trial court to enter its decision on the exceptions. On June 18, 1993, the trial court issued an order denying Son's exceptions and affirmed the Master's proposed order. Son appeals.
Our standard of review in support matters is well settled; "absent an abuse of discretion, we will not disturb on appeal a properly entered support order." Depp v. Holland, 431 Pa.Super. 209, 211, 636 A.2d 204, 205 (1994); see also Commonwealth ex rel. Price v. Campbell, 180 Pa.Super. 518, 520, 119 A.2d 816, 817 (1956). In the present case, the trial court ordered Son to make payments of $125 per month to Mother's medical care providers for her past medical care expenses. This support order was issued pursuant to 62 P.S. § 1973(a), which provides, in pertinent part:
§ 1973. Relatives liable for the support of indigent person; procedure to enforce support
Thus, this support statute expressly grants the trial court the authority to order the child of an indigent person to care for, maintain or financially assist the indigent person provided the child is financially able to do so. The duty of parental support is created by statute, for "[a]t common-law, an adult child has no duty or obligation to contribute to the support of his parents." Albert Einstein Medical Center v. Forman, 212 Pa.Super. 450, 454, 243 A.2d 181, 183 (1968).
Son also argues that in finding a duty of parental support, the trial court inappropriately relied on Verna, a case involving the claim of support of an adult child for continued support from her father. Again, we disagree. The trial court found the duty of parental support in Section 1973(a), and it cited Verna to support its determination that section 432.6 had not repealed Section 1973, on the issue of relatives liable for the support of an indigent person. Opinion and Order, dated June 18, 1993, at 1 n. 1. Thus, Son's claim that the trial court improperly relied on Verna to find a duty of parental support lacks merit.
Son's final argument is that even if the trial court found that a child owes a duty of parental support, Son owed no duty to Mother because Mother was not indigent, as
Rather, in determining whether a person is indigent within the meaning of Section 1973, when her reasonable living expenses exceed her Social Security benefits, her sole source of income, we find it more appropriate to apply the common law definition of indigent:
Verna, 288 Pa.Super. at 518, 432 A.2d at 633 (citations omitted).
When we apply the above-stated definition of indigent to the facts of this case, we are constrained to conclude that Mother is indigent. Our determination of Mother's indigency rests upon the inadequacy of her Social Security benefits to meet her reasonable care and maintenance, as well as her past medical expenses, which are in excess of $10,000. Mother's monthly income is $438.40, and her monthly expenses are $940. The trial court determined that Mother's expenses were reasonable, and we observe nothing in the record to indicate otherwise. The trial court adopted the Master's
Accordingly, we affirm the parental support order.