APPEAL FROM THE JUDGMENT ENTERED OCTOBER 23, 1985 IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF ADAMS COUNTY, CIVIL NO. 82-2-486
Larry W. Wolf, Hanover, for appellants.
Walton V. Davis, Gettysburg, for appellee.
Cirillo, President Judge, and Tamilia and Hester, JJ.
[ 356 Pa. Super. Page 367]
This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Adams County which dismissed appellants' exceptions and adopted the master's report regarding equitable distribution in bifurcated proceedings in an action for divorce. Judgment was entered upon praecipe in the amount of $6,927.55 in favor of defendant-appellee Gail Raab Wolf and against additional defendants-appellants John and Grace Wolf (hereinafter "parents"), and in favor of defendant-appellee and against plaintiff-appellant Rodney Wolf in the amount of $2,767.58 plus specified items of personalty. This timely appeal followed.
Rodney and Gail became engaged to be married in March 1976. The actual marriage occurred three and one-half years later in October, 1979. During their long engagement, Rodney and Gail both began collecting household items in contemplation of marriage. All of the items purchased
[ 356 Pa. Super. Page 368]
prior to marriage subsequently became the property of the marital entity.
In July, 1977, over a year after Rodney and Gail became engaged, Rodney approached his father and informed him that he wished to buy a home but was unable to obtain financing from a bank. Rodney's parents then purchased the home Rodney and Gail had previously inspected. The parents obtained a mortgage for 100 percent of the purchase price for which they put up their own home as collateral. Rodney and Gail have had exclusive possession of the house since the date of purchase. Though the couple did not move in until after their marriage, both Rodney and Gail did extensive work on the house in preparation for their eventual occupancy.
The couple made a number of substantial and costly improvements to the home both before and after their marriage. Prior to their marriage, they installed new aluminum siding, a well pump, kitchen and bathroom floors, insulation, kitchen cabinets, a suspended ceiling in the master bedroom, and a textured ceiling in the kitchen. After the pair married and moved into the home, they restored the foundation wall in the basement, installed new garage doors and electric door openers, and landscaped the surrounding yard area. The total cost of these improvements was approximately $15,555.00. Both Rodney and Gail contributed to payment of this bill.
In addition to these substantial improvements, Rodney and Gail were also responsible for all expenses associated with the maintenance of the home: mortgage payments, taxes, utilities, insurance, and settlement costs. None of the purchase price nor any expense related to ownership of the property was paid by John and Grace Wolf, Rodney's parents and the titled owners.
Upon the master's recommendations, the trial court determined that the facts of this case warranted the imposition of a resulting trust in favor of Rodney and Gail. In addition, the court found that the parents would be unjustly enriched if they were permitted to retain the property
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without compensating Gail for her contributions to the improvements. Noting that both Gail and Rodney treated the property as their own, the court held that unjust enrichment would occur if the parents were to reap the benefits of the mortgage payments and improvements without reimbursing Gail. We agree; and accordingly, we affirm.
Appellants raise a number of issues on appeal: 1) whether Section 301 of the Divorce Code, 23 P.S. § 301, confers jurisdiction upon a master in divorce to recommend, and the trial court to confirm, a judgment imposing a resulting trust against real estate titled in the name of individuals who are not parties to the divorce action; 2) whether the trial court's adoption of the master's findings of fact support a judgment imposing a resulting trust against real estate titled in the name of additional parties; 3) whether the master's findings of fact adopted by the trial court support a judgment of unjust enrichment against the parents as additional parties; and 4) whether the trial court abused its discretion in compelling Rodney to submit to ...