Com. v. Pewatts

Decision Date12 December 1962
Citation200 Pa.Super. 22,186 A.2d 408
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. John PEWATTS, a/k/a John Pewats, Appellant.
CourtPennsylvania Superior Court

Hymen Schlesinger, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

G. E. Loebig, Jr., Pittsburgh, for appellee.



This is an appeal from an order of the County Court of Allegheny County directing the appellant to pay $10 per week for the support of his illegitimate child, then fourteen years of age. Jurisdiction of the matter was taken under the Allegheny County Court Act of 1911, P.L. 198, as amended, 17 P.S. § 626 (P.P.), providing for the County Court to take jurisdiction '(g) In all cases involving the support of a child born out of wedlock, where the father admits parentage, and where he is willing to support the child.' We have no difficulty in arriving at the same conclusion arrived at by the lower court, that the Legislature intended to give jurisdiction whenever the putative father admitted parenthood or where the alleged putative father was willing to support a bastard child, on the analysis of the law made by the lower court. We do note, however, that in the amending Acts of 1945, P.L. 184, and 1951, P.L. 1066, as well as the record of same in Purdon's Digest of Statutes, 17 P.S. § 626 (P.P.), there is a comma after the word 'parentage' and before the word 'and' as shown above, which comma is omitted in appellant's recital of the act in his brief.

Admittedly, appellant did not express a willingness to support the child when he appeared before the County Court. However, he admitted parenthood, which gave the County Court jurisdiction of the matter. He defends the action by showing full compliance with an order of the Quarter Sessions Court in a fornication and bastardy proceeding involving the same child, which provided for its maintenance until it reached the age of fourteen. That order terminated on January 25, 1961, from which date he has made no contribution. What we are required to determine is the effect of that order.

Under section 506 of the Penal Code of 1939, June 24, P.L. 872, as amended, 18 P.S. § 4506, as it existed at the time of appellant's prosecution in the Quarter Sessions Court, as well as thereafter, fornication is made a misdemeanor subject to a fine of one hundred dollars ($100); and when a child is born a separate crime known as 'fornication and bastardy' or simply 'bastardy', is committed. Commonwealth ex rel. Roberts v. Keenan, 170 Pa.Super. 282, 85 A.2d 678; Commonwealth v. Rednock, 165 Pa.Super. 536, 69 A.2d 447; Commonwealth v. Bertram, 143 Pa.Super. 1, 16 A.2d 758. An additional sentence is provided for that crime, viz., the payment of the expenses of the birth and maintenance of the child, and its burial should it have died.

Section 732 of the 1939 Penal Code, 18 P.S. § 4732, also imposes on the putative father the obligation to support his child born out of wedlock. We have interpreted a provision under the Act of 1917, P.L. 773, as amended, similar to section 732, as establishing a separate crime not barred by a previous conviction for the crime of fornication and bastardy involving the same child. Commonwealth v. Susanek, 88 Pa.Super. 428; Commonwealth v. Morningstar, 82 Pa.Super. 425; Commonwealth v. Wibner, 73 Pa.Super. 349. However, by the specific provision of section 732, proceedings under it are suspended 'Whenever a parent is paying for the support of a child, under an order of court made in any other proceeding, civil, criminal, or quasi-criminal * * * unless he has failed to obey such order of court.' The offense under section 732 is committed at the time the putative parent ceases to support his child. The present appellant ceased to pay for the support of his child when it reached the age of fourteen. In Commonwealth v. Morningstar, supra, a conviction under this statute was sustained although the defendant had previously been released under the insolvency law from an order made in a fornication and bastardy case directing him to pay support for his child.

The purpose of section 732 is well stated by Judge HIRT, 143 Pa.Super. at page 3, 16 A.2d at page 759, in Commonwealth v. Bertram, supra, 'The act, in accordance with the modern trend, was designed to ameliorate the injustice of the common law in relation to the status and rights of illegitimate children, and to convert the moral duty of the father into a legal obligation to provide for their support and maintenance.'

Although the Quarter Sessions Court, in the fornication and bastardy proceeding, might have altered its original sentence as it was privileged to do under the amendment of 1951, September 28, P.L. 1543, 18 P.S. § 4506 (P.P.), we place no significance on the fact that it did not do so in resolving the present issue. There is no overlapping of the order of the Quarter Sessions Court with that of the County Court.

Recently, in Commonwealth ex rel. O'Hey v. McCurdy, 199 Pa.Super. 115, 184 A.2d 291, and Commonwealth v. Martin, 196 Pa.Super. 355, 175 A.2d 138, we recognized the father's obligation to support his children and recognized that there are no established limits to that obligation. 1 In each case the limits are determined by the property, income and earning capacity of the father, and the condition or station in life of the family. Although those cases involved legitimate children, we find no arbitrary distinction in the law as it relates to illegitimate children, except as indicated in footnote 1. Therefore, although the order of the Quarter Sessions Court in the fornication and bastardy proceeding did not provide for support beyond the fourteenth birthday of the appellant's child, such order would not have the effect of terminating as of that date appellant's obligation to his child. It would be unreasonable to say that the court, making an order of such nature shortly after the birth of the child, could foresee its needs or its father's capacity to pay in the then distant fiture. We do not decide to what extent the Quarter Sessions Court could have enlarged or extended its original order under the 1951 amendment. We decide merely that the present proceeding is distinct from the fornication and bastardy proceeding and is not barred by it. Section 732 is not a supplement to section 506. Commonwealth v. Bertram, supra.

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10 cases
  • Com. ex rel. Riddle v. Anderson
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • 3 avril 1974
    ...being found guilty of fornication resulting in bastardy, and is, under this statute, made a criminal penalty. In Commonwealth v. Pewatts, 200 Pa.Super. 22, 186 A.2d 408 (1962), we recognized that Section 506 is 'We conclude that Section 506 of The Penal Code is penal in nature and as such m......
  • McConnell v. Schmidt
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • 22 avril 1975
    ...children in which the putative father denied a parental relationship was in the quarter sessions court. See Commonwealth v. Pewatts, 200 Pa.Super. 22, 186 A.2d 408, allocatur refused, 200 Pa.Super. xxix (1962). The 1968 amendment abolished the quarter sessions court 7 and provided for a con......
  • Com. v. Dunnick
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • 24 juillet 1964
    ...a bar to a prosecution for failure to support the child. Commonwealth v. Susanek, 88 Pa.Super. 428, 431 (1926); Commonwealth v. Pewatts, 200 Pa.Super. 22, 25, 186 A.2d 408 (1962). The gist or gravamen of an action of bastardy is the fornication as a result of which the female conceives. The......
  • State ex rel. Acorman v. Pitner
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • 4 mai 1964
    ...child against the man released. Commonwealth v. Patterson, 106 Pa.Super. 433, 162 A. 477 (Super.Ct.1932); Commonwealth v. Pewatts, 200 Pa.Super. 22, 186 A.2d 408 (Super.Ct.1962). And it has been held elsewhere that such an agreement is also binding on the child is his subsequent suit for su......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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