No. 00427 Philadelphia 1983, No. 03190 Philadelphia 1983, Appeal from the Orders of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Montgomery County at No. 80-12437.
Neil Hurowitz, King of Prussia, for appellant.
Arthur R. Littleton, Philadelphia, for appellee.
McEwen, Del Sole and Popovich, JJ. Del Sole, J., files a dissenting opinion.
[ 341 Pa. Super. Page 117]
This is a consolidation of two appeals filed by appellant, Catherine Mandia, one from an order which bifurcated from the parties' economic claims appellant's divorce from appellee, Dominic Mandia, and one which dismissed the exceptions of appellant to a Master's report concerning, inter alia, equitable distribution, alimony, approving the Master's report and recommendations, and entering a final order.
On January 18, 1983, an order was entered bifurcating the parties' divorce from the outstanding economic claims. Appellant filed a Notice of Appeal from the bifurcation
[ 341 Pa. Super. Page 118]
order at No. 427 Philadelphia 1983 on February 4, 1983. We hold that an order granting a petition for bifurcation is not final and appealable.
Whether an order is final and appealable cannot necessarily be ascertained from the face of the decree alone, nor simply from the technical effect of the adjudication. The finality of an order is a judicial conclusion which can be reached only after an examination of its ramifications.
Bell v. Beneficial Consumer Discount Company, 465 Pa. 225, 228, 348 A.2d 734, 735 (1975). An order which grants a bifurcation has no bearing on the parties' status nor does it realistically affect them in any way. It is only upon entry of the actual decree of divorce when the ramifications of the order become apparent and tangible. A party who opposes the grant of a petition for bifurcation is not necessarily acting in opposition to the divorce per se but is opposing the timing of the divorce vis a vis the parties' economic claims. Indeed, in this case, appellant initially filed for divorce. For reasons carefully explored in Wolk v. Wolk, 318 Pa. Super. 311, 464 A.2d 1359 (1983), a party who opposes the petition does so on the grounds that it would be error to grant a divorce at this time and under these circumstances.
In the instant case, six days after the entry of the bifurcation order, a divorce decree was entered. Although the initial appeal is lodged from the bifurcation order, such an order would not be entered without intention of thereafter entering a decree of divorce. Indeed, often the two orders are combined. As expressed above, the bifurcation order did not aggrieve appellant; the order entering the divorce represents the substance of her appeal. In this case, the divorce decree states that it is "by virtue of the authority vested in this Court under . . . the Order entered by this court on January 18, 1983, decreeing bifurcation of this case to effectuate economic justice." The appeal from the order which was entered as a final decree of ...