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PAUL G. ESTEP v. THELMA R. (SHARP) ESTEP (11/13/85)

decided: November 13, 1985.

PAUL G. ESTEP, APPELLEE,
v.
THELMA R. (SHARP) ESTEP, APPELLANT



No. 81 W. D. Appeal Docket 1984. Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania at No. 1122 Pittsburgh, 1981, vacating the Order dated October 13, 1981, of the Court. of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Civil Division, at No. 7827 of 1980 Nix, C.j., and Larsen, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Flaherty, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Zappala

[ 508 Pa. Page 624]

OPINION

The parties in this action were married on July 2, 1978. Prior to their marriage, the Appellee purchased a tract of

[ 508 Pa. Page 625]

    land for $3,750 although title was listed in both parties as tenants in common. For seven months prior to the marriage, the parties lived together, Appellant supporting the Appellee while the Appellee constructed the dwelling on the aforesaid tract of land. The record indicates that a bank loan, the Appellee's mother, and the parties themselves contributed the funds to construct the house. Subsequent to their marriage, the parties deeded the property to themselves as tenants by the entireties. Although construction of the marital residence began prior to the marriage, it was not completed until after July, 1978. Domestic tranquility ended by August of 1980, when the parties separated. The Appellee thereafter filed a complaint in divorce on August 20, 1980.

In accordance with Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1920.33, both parties filed their inventory and appraisal, in which each listed the above real estate and a Merrill Lynch stock account as marital assets. The Appellee did note, however, that he paid for the unimproved lot himself. On February 19, 1981, a hearing was held before a master to equitably distribute the marital property. In that hearing, the Appellee testified that the real estate was jointly owned and that the Appellant had contributed $8,000 towards the construction of the house. He also indicated that the house was 80 percent completed prior to the marriage. There also was testimony that the Appellant contributed towards the parties' living expenses during the time that they lived together but prior to their marriage.

With regard to the Merrill Lynch stock account, the Appellee testified as follows:

Q. . . . You sold property in Brookville?

A. Property I had in Brookville for $2,500. I put it in the account at Merrill Lynch.

Q. You sold that property during your marriage to Mrs. Estep, and you placed the $2,500 in the Merrill Lynch . . .

[ 508 Pa. Page 626]

A. I sold the property to people from Clairton, and I took the $2,500 and I had it in the bank in a safety deposit box, and I had worked and made some extra money on the job, and I put it all together. I will put this in the Merrill Lynch account in your name and my name. If something happens to me, you've got something. If something happens to you, I've got something. N.R. pp. 98-99a.

Reviewing all the evidence, the master determined that the Merrill Lynch stock account was a marital asset, and the balance was to be equally divided after payment of a joint obligation. With regard to the real estate, the master reasoned that since the property was originally held as tenants in common, each would be entitled to an undivided one-half ...


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