NO. 00331 PHILADELPHIA 1984, Appeal from the Order entered on January 16, 1984, in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Civil Division, at No. 1982-C-1397. NO. 00478 PHILADELPHIA 1984, Appeal from the Order entered on January 16, 1984, in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Civil Division, at No. 1982-C-1397.
William H. Agnew, Nazareth, for appellant (at 331) and appellee (at 478).
John R. Vivian, Jr., Easton, for appellant (at 478) and appellee (at 331).
Beck, Hester and Roberts, JJ.
[ 342 Pa. Super. Page 19]
This is an appeal*fn1 from a trial court order denying the exceptions of appellant Gerald D. Dech and appellee/cross-appellant Janet K. Dech to a master's report and recommendations for equitable division and deferred distribution of marital property and for alimony payable to Mrs. Dech. We vacate in part and affirm in part.
In this appeal Mr. and Mrs. Dech question whether the trial court abused its discretion*fn2 in (1) dividing and deferring distribution of the parties' marital property; (2) awarding Mrs. Dech alimony before the entry of a divorce decree; (3) assessing each party's share of the costs; (4) requiring the parties to pay their respective counsel fees, and (5) finding the master's fees reasonable.
[ 342 Pa. Super. Page 20]
A brief factual history will facilitate resolution of the first two issues which we shall address in tandem. The parties were married on December 26, 1970, and separated on February 4, 1982, at which time Mr. Dech moved from the marital residence. On February 22, 1982, Mr. Dech filed a complaint in divorce which alleged an irretrievable breakdown in the parties' marital relationship and requested that the court enter a divorce decree and equitably divide and distribute the parties' marital property. On May 7, 1982, Mrs. Dech submitted an answer and counterclaim which averred that the parties might be reconciled through court-ordered marriage counseling and further sought alimony pendente lite, alimony, and equitable division and distribution of the parties' marital property.
A master was appointed on June 16, 1982, to evaluate the parties' property for the purposes of equitable division and distribution. On December 3, 1982, in response to Mrs. Dech's petition, the trial court expanded the master's function "to include the duty and power to make recommendations to the Court, in accordance with the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure."*fn3 Based upon the evidence received at two hearings, the master filed a comprehensive report (Pa.R.C.P. No. 1920.54) which principally advised that Mr. Dech received his non-vested pension benefits plus deferred distribution of forty percent of the sale price of the marital residence*fn4 and that Mrs. Dech receive deferred distribution of sixty percent of the sale price of the marital residence plus alimony until the sale of the marital residence.
After reviewing the parties' positions on the underlying divorce issue and the master's recommendations on alimony
[ 342 Pa. Super. Page 21]
and equitable division and distribution of the parties' marital property, the trial court determined that in accordance with section 401(b) of the Divorce Code, 23 P.S. § 401(b), and Rule 1920.52(c), it was empowered to decide the alimony and ...