Appeal from the Order of October 13, 1981 in the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Civil Division, No. 7827 of 1980.
Joseph F. Cassarino, Greenburg, for appellant.
P. Louis DeRose, III, Greensburg, for appellee.
Cercone, President Judge, and Spaeth*fn* and Hester, JJ.
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In the initial appeal of this case from an order of equitable distribution and divorce, pursuant to the Divorce
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Code of 1980, 23 P.S. § 101, et seq., we affirmed four of the findings of the Master, which had been adopted by the lower court. Estep v. Estep, 326 Pa. Superior Ct. 404, 474 A.2d 302 (1984). Two of appellant, Paul G. Estep's, contentions concerning the real estate which was owned by the parties and the proceeds from a Merrill-Lynch stock account, were held not to be marital property by this court, reversing that part of the lower court's equitable distribution order. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted Thelma R. (Sharp) Estep's petition for allowance of appeal and reversed that part of this court's decision concerning the real estate and the Merrill-Lynch account. This case is before us now on remand from the Supreme Court for the consideration of "any other remaining issues not previously considered." Estep v. Estep, 508 Pa. 623, 500 A.2d 418 (1985).
Initially, we adopt the analysis and disposition of our former opinion in this case as to appellant's claims involving the money given to appellant by his mother, the amount of insurance possessed by appellant, the money contained in the joint safety deposit box, and the valuation which was placed on the real estate by the lower court. Estep v. Estep, supra. The issues which are before us now for review are whether the distribution of the real estate by the Master was in error in that it should have reflected a substantially greater claim of interest in the property by the appellant than by appellee; and also, whether appellant should have been awarded the entire amount, or at least a greater share, in the Merrill-Lynch account owing to his exclusive contribution to it.
The lower court, adopting the recommendations of the Master, concluded that the real estate should be divided equally, based on equivalent contributions of the parties. The court premised its decision on several factors (1) cash contributions to construction of a home of husband and wife of $10,000 and $8,000, respectively; (2) the value of the husband's work and labor on the home and his limited financial support of the parties throughout construction (3)
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the wife's primary responsibility for the parties' daily living expenses during the approximately eight month period of construction; (4) and the wife's non-monetary contribution as both a construction-helper and homemaker. As for the Merrill-Lynch account, the court ordered the withdrawal of the monies in it, and the application of the fund to satisfy the mortgage on the home, with the balance to be divided equally.
We reiterate that equitable distribution is within the discretion of the trial court and its decision will not be disturbed absent an abuse of that discretion. Gee v. Gee, ...