No. 44 E.D. Appeal Dkt, 1984, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court at No. 2475 Philadelphia 1982 filed November 25, 1983, affirming the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County at No. 669-C of 1981 filed August 6, 1982.
Pasco L. Schiavo, Hazleton, for appellant.
Richard M. Goldberg, Wilkes Barre, for appellee.
Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ.
On February 19, 1981, pursuant to the Divorce Code of 1980,*fn1 the appellee, Allene A. Barletta, filed a complaint in divorce in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County. Her complaint sought a decree divorcing her from the appellant, Robert J. Barletta, and a decree of equitable distribution of their marital property. Both parties executed affidavits stating that the marriage was irretrievably broken and that they consented to the entry of a final decree in divorce.*fn2 The divorce was granted on April 12, 1982.
In the interim, in accordance with Section 304 of the Divorce Code,*fn3 the court appointed a master to hear testimony concerning, among other things, the equitable distribution of the marital property and to report his findings to the court. In his report, the master stated that, "it would not be feasible nor desirable to start dividing the various items of marital property, and the Master, therefore, is of the opinion that the [appellant] should pay to the [appellee] the sum of $17,000.00 representing the amount to which she is entitled from the equitable distribution of the marital property . . ." This recommendation was accompanied by a summary of the marital property as established by the evidence presented at the hearing.
In his exceptions to the master's report, the appellant contended that the mandatory conversion of the marital property to cash was contrary to law, and that instead the marital property should have been divided and distributed. The trial court, sitting en banc, denied those exceptions and, in stating that it was satisfied with the master's recommendation regarding the marital property, said, "[A]n itemized
division and distribution would be impracticable and virtually impossible. The most feasible and just way to insure the equitable distribution of the marital property is to assess a monetary value to be paid to the [appellee]." (Slip Opinion No. 699-C-81, p. 5.) By memorandum opinion, the Superior Court affirmed the order of the court of common pleas. 321 Pa. Super. 601, 468 A.2d 844.
We granted the petition for allowance of appeal for the sole purpose of deciding whether, under the Pennsylvania Divorce Code, one spouse may be required to buy out the other spouse's interest in marital property. We now reverse.
When it undertook the consolidation and revision of Pennsylvania's divorce law, the legislature declared that it is the policy of this Commonwealth to "[E]ffectuate economic justice between parties who are divorced or separated . . . and insure a fair and just determination and settlement of their property rights."*fn4 Pursuant to that policy, the Code states that the courts of common pleas "shall, upon request of either party, equitably divide, distribute or assign the marital property between the parties ...