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filed: May 5, 1988.


Appeal from the Decree March 23, 1987, in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, Civil No. 81-C-1781.

Rowley, Wieand and Olszewski, JJ.

Author: Olszewski

[ 374 Pa. Super. Page 319]

In Hodge v. Hodge, 513 Pa. 264, 520 A.2d 15 (1986), the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was asked to determine whether Section 501 of the Divorce Code, 23 P.S. ยง 501, permits an award of "reimbursement alimony" to a supporting spouse for contributions made to a student spouse during the course of a marriage. In this case, we are asked to examine Hodge and to fashion an equitable award under Section 401 of the Divorce Code to reimburse a supporting spouse for the contributions made while the other spouse pursued an academic degree. Having carefully considered the argument advanced under Hodge, supra, and, in light of our decision in Lehmicke v. Lehmicke, 339 Pa. Super. 559, 489 A.2d 782 (1985), we are constrained to vacate the order granting appellant an award of "reimbursement equity" and to remand the case for further proceedings.

I. Background

Nancy G. Bold and Richard A. Bold were married on May 25, 1974.*fn1 At the time of the marriage, Nancy had attained

[ 374 Pa. Super. Page 320]

    a bachelor of science degree in medical technology and had been employed as a medical technician. In 1974 she earned between $12,000-13,000 annually, and in 1979 she accepted employment at a salary of $19,000. Nancy brought approximately $2,500 into the marriage. When Richard entered the marriage he had completed a few years of college and the police academy in Los Angeles, California. He had been employed at various odd jobs such as sales, construction and automobile repair but was unemployed due to "layoffs" at those jobs. Mr. Bold entered the marriage with approximately $700, some personal property and a camper.

From 1974 through 1979, the parties lived in California. In May of 1977, they purchased a home there for $57,480: Mrs. Bold contributed $500 to the down payment, the parties borrowed $5,000 from Mr. Bold's mother and they took a mortgage in the amount of $49,000. The parties sold the house in July of 1979 for $84,040, realizing a profit of $24,984.40.

Starting in September of 1974 and until 1976, Mr. Bold attended college pursuing courses in business and geology, and from 1976 through May of 1979, he attended the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic. While pursuing a degree, Mr. Bold received Veterans Administration educational benefits which totaled in excess of $12,000. During that same time, tuition and book expenses totaled approximately $14,300. Mr. Bold also received a student loan in the amount of $1,187.15 which was repaid within nine months of graduation. While pursuing his studies, Mr. Bold earned approximately $16,000 at various odd jobs. During the five years that Mr. Bold was in school, Mrs. Bold earned in excess of $80,000.

Although Mr. Bold was in school, the couple enjoyed numerous outings, camping trips, vacations, and sightseeing and skiing trips. The parties also dined out and entertained at home. In total, the parties expended approximately $106,612 between 1974 and 1979.

Mr. Bold graduated from chiropractic school in May of 1979. In August of that year, the parties sold the house in

[ 374 Pa. Super. Page 321]

California and moved to Pennsylvania where they purchased a house for $55,000. Upon moving to Pennsylvania, Mrs. Bold obtained a job at an initial salary of $17,000 and Mr. Bold found work at a weekly salary of $200. In February of 1980, Mr. Bold left his job and opened his own chiropractic practice. There is no doubt that his education has increased his earnings potential. In 1984, for example, Mr. Bold had gross receipts of $87,394 and a net profit of $31,934 from his chiropractic practice.

On October 1, 1981, Mrs. Bold moved out of the marital home at the request of Mr. Bold. She relocated to a one-bedroom apartment where she enjoys few modern facilities. Mrs. Bold has remained at her present job even though there is no potential for a significant increase in earnings. She has, however, attended college since January of 1985 in pursuit of a master's degree, a move which will increase her earning potential. Her employer pays two-thirds of her educational costs.

The assets available for distribution are as follows. Furnishings and equipment at Mr. Bold's office are valued at $8,095. The parties jointly own two cars which have a combined total value of $5,500. In addition, Mrs. Bold obtained stock worth $6,887 from her employer and the balances in the several bank accounts total $540. In 1984 the marital house was valued at $59,000, and at the time of the separation, the equity value of the house was $15,863.35. From the time the parties were separated in 1981 until the time of the divorce in 1984, Mr. Bold has paid insurance, mortgage and tax bills totaling $4,433.

The record also contains the following summary of the earnings of Mrs. Bold and the net profit of Mr. Bold, respectively:

1981 -- $19,503/$18,542;

1982 -- $22,161/$32,254;

1983 -- $23,700/$37,023;

1984 -- $26,363/$31,934 (plus interest income of $1,120).

[ 374 Pa. Super. Page 322]

On May 12, 1981, Mrs. Bold filed a complaint seeking a divorce, equitable distribution, counsel fees, costs and expenses. A bifurcated divorce decree was entered by stipulation of the parties on April 26, 1984. A master was appointed to hear the economic claims and, after several hearings, a report and recommendation was filed on January 24, 1986. Mr. Bold subsequently filed timely exceptions to the master's ...

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