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Philadelphia-The daughter of a failed marriage can sue her father to enforce a child support provision of her parents’ property settlement agreement that would benefit her directly, a Pennsylvania state appellate court has ruled. In what appears to be a first impression case in the state, a three-judge Superior Court panel concluded that Richard Chen was obligated to supplement his child support payments to daughter Theresa in accordance with raises in his salary. The court affirmed a trial court order to make $59,292 in back payments. “Theresa was entitled to more than the $25 per week that [Richard Chen] dutifully sent each week,” Judge Kate Ford Elliott wrote in Chen v. Chen. “We see nothing to prevent Theresa from enforcing her right . . . to an increased amount of support based on her father’s increased earnings.” Chen and former wife Wheamei Jenq Chen were married for six years while both were students at Lehigh University, said Theresa Chen’s attorney, Donald F. Spry II of King Spry Herman Freund & Faul in Bethlehem, Pa. According to the opinion, the couple had two children: a son, born in 1978, and Theresa, born in February 1982. After their divorce, the son went to live with Richard, while Theresa remained in Wheamei’s custody. Pursuant to the child support provision of their 1983 property agreement, the opinion said, Richard agreed to pay $25 per week to Wheamei for Theresa’s support. He also submitted to having his payments increased following any salary raises, in conjunction with Northampton County domestic relations guidelines. Wheamei has never sought support increases. Since leaving Pennsylvania, she and Theresa have lived in several U.S. states and in Taiwan; Richard moved to Michigan in 1985. Seeking more money According to the opinion, Wheamei sought child support arrearages in April 2000. After her 18th birthday, Theresa petitioned to intervene in Wheamei’s action in May 2000. The trial court deemed Theresa an appropriate third-party beneficiary and awarded her arrearages in June 2002 following a nonjury trial. (Wheamei withdrew her petition before the trial began.) The court rejected Richard’s argument that since Theresa lived a normal, happy life, she had no right to the benefits of her parents’ agreement. Charles A. Banta, a solo practitioner in Allentown, Pa., who represented Richard, said that he is considering appealing the decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

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