Denelle v. Denelle, 112520 PASUP, 617 WDA 2020

Docket Nº:617 WDA 2020
Opinion Judge:DUBOW, J.
Party Name:JAMIE L. DENELLE v. SAMANTHA G. DENELLE APPEAL OF: LAWRENCE COUNTY DOMESTIC RELATIONS OFFICE
Judge Panel:BEFORE: OLSON, J., DUBOW, J., and STEVENS, P.J.E
Case Date:November 25, 2020
Court:Superior Court of Pennsylvania

2020 PA Super 277

JAMIE L. DENELLE

v.

SAMANTHA G. DENELLE

APPEAL OF: LAWRENCE COUNTY DOMESTIC RELATIONS OFFICE

No. 617 WDA 2020

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

November 25, 2020

Appeal from the Order Entered May 15, 2020 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County Domestic Relations at No(s): 461 of 2018, D.R.

BEFORE: OLSON, J., DUBOW, J., and STEVENS, P.J.E. [*]

OPINION

DUBOW, J.

The Lawrence County Domestic Relations Office ("DRO") appeals the May 15, 2020 Order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County that, inter alia, dismissed the Complaint for Support that Jamie L. Denelle ("Mother") filed against Samantha G. Denelle, formerly named Marc Allen Denelle ("Putative Parent")1, after the trial court made a finding that Putative Parent did not sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity for N.S.D. ("Child"). Upon review, we affirm.

The relevant factual and procedural history is as follows. Mother and Putative Parent began dating when Mother was three months pregnant. Putative Parent was aware that Mother was pregnant and Mother informed Putative Parent that Nick Medved was Child's biological father. During their relationship, Mother and Putative Parent agreed that Putative Parent would not be financially responsible for supporting Child and that Mother would pursue Nick Medved for child support.

Child was born on May 29, 2008. Putative Parent's name appears on an Acknowledgment of Paternity for Child, as well as Child's Birth Certificate, but Putative Parent disputes that she signed the Acknowledgment of Paternity.

On November 27, 2008, Mother and Putative Parent married. While Mother and Putative Parent were married, Putative Parent underwent gender reassignment surgery. In approximately August 2013, Mother and Putative Parent separated and Putative Parent moved to Austin, Texas. Mother and Putative Parent officially divorced in 2017, and Mother did not seek child support at the time.

In April 2018, Mother underwent back surgery and was no longer able to work. Mother sought public financial assistance, and, to be eligible, the DRO required her to seek financial support for Child.

Thus, on October 3, 2018, Mother filed a Complaint for Support against Putative Parent. On March 19, 2019, after a support conference, the hearing officer entered an Interim Support Order requiring Putative Parent to pay $1, 125 per month to Mother for support of Child.

Putative Parent filed a timely demand for a de novo hearing and on July 15, 2019, the court held a hearing. Mother testified, in sum, that Putative

Parent is not Child's biological father but Putative Parent signed "the papers" at the hospital, and that she was not seeking support from Putative Parent but, rather, a court order removing Putative Parent's name from the Acknowledgment of Paternity and Birth Certificate. N.T. Hearing 7/15/19, at 6-9, 20. Mother requested that the court order a paternity test for Nick Medved who, present at the hearing, agreed to submit to the test. Id. at 13, 20.

On July 17, 2019, the trial court issued an Order, which found that Putative Parent was not Child's biological father, set Putative Parent's financial obligation to zero, and ordered Mother to file a Complaint for Support against Nick Medved. Order, filed 7/17/19.

The DRO filed a timely Motion for Reconsideration, which the trial court granted on August 14, 2019. On September 16, 2019, the court held a brief hearing, and the DRO argued that because Putative Parent signed the Acknowledgment of Paternity, Putative Parent was legally obligated to support Child despite not being Child's biological father. After hearing oral argument, the trial court determined that an additional hearing date was necessary.

On March 4, 2020, the trial court held a hearing, incorporated the testimony from the July 15, 2019 and September 16, 2019 hearings, and heard additional testimony from Mother and Putative Parent. Mother maintained her position that Putative Parent was not Child's biological father. Putative Parent testified that she did not sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity at the time of Child's birth. N.T. Hearing, 3/4/20, at 28. Further, Putative

Parent testified that the signature on the document was not consistent with her handwriting, her listed address was incorrect, and the document listed her surname as "Nunez-Denelle" when, at the time, she exclusively used the surname "Denelle." Id. at 27-28. Putative Parent also...

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