Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Lackawanna County, No. 81 Civ. 4412.
William R. Lee, Scranton, for appellant.
David P. Posatko, Public Defender, Tunkhannock, for appellee.
Wieand, McEwen and Melinson, JJ.
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The trial court, acting upon recommendations made by a master, entered a decree of equitable distribution which (1)
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awarded alimony to the wife at the rate of fifty ($50) dollars per week for one year; (2) directed each party to pay his or her own counsel fees and expenses; (3) directed that the proceeds derived from the sale of the marital home be divided equally; and (4) awarded wife a one-half (1/2) interest in a single share of stock owned by husband and representing a one one-hundredths interest in a closely held business corporation. The wife appealed. In every respect, she contends, the awards made to her were inadequate. We find merit in the last of her contentions; and, therefore, we reverse and remand for further consideration.
Margaret and Sheldon Adelstein were married on April 25, 1964. Following marriage, Margaret discontinued her employment and for the next eighteen years became a homemaker and mother.*fn1 Sheldon was one of two shareholders in NEPP Wire Products, Inc., a closely held corporation engaged in the business of manufacturing lamp shades and lamp components. The parties separated in 1982, and a divorce action followed. Prior to the hearing before a master, most items of personal property had been distributed by and between the parties. The master, after taking testimony, made additional recommendations which the court, despite exceptions by both spouses, incorporated into a final decree.
The trial court's order regarding alimony must be evaluated against an abuse of discretion standard. Mazzei v. Mazzei, 331 Pa. Super. 432, 437, 480 A.2d 1111, 1113 (1984). "[I]f a party receiving alimony is able to provide for [her] reasonable needs through employment, the court is to fashion an alimony order to be in effect only until such employment has been obtained or the party has developed an appropriate employable skill." Id., 331 Pa. Superior Ct. at 443, 480 A.2d at 1116, quoting Geyer v. Geyer, 310 Pa. Super. 456, 464, 456 A.2d 1025, 1029 (1983). Here, the husband-appellee has supported the wife-appellant during
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the pendency of the divorce proceedings, and the trial court found that wife-appellant, in an additional year, should be able to become self-supporting. The record discloses no impediment, whether physical, mental, or educational, that would prevent appellant from supporting herself. Under these circumstances, there is no basis in this case for finding an abuse of the trial court's discretion in the fixing of alimony.
In determining the propriety of an award of counsel fees, we also utilize an abuse of discretion standard of review. Miller v. Miller, 352 Pa. Super. 432, 443, 508 A.2d 550, 556 (1986); Pangallo v. Pangallo, 329 Pa. Super. 25, 31, 477 A.2d 885, 888 (1984); Prozzoly v. Prozzoly, 327 Pa. Super. 326, 331, 475 A.2d 820, 823 (1984); Ruth v. Ruth, 316 Pa. Super. 282, 285, 462 A.2d 1351, 1352-1353 (1983). However, counsel fees are not awarded to either spouse automatically. Diamond v. Diamond, [360 Pa. Super. 101, 116, 519 A.2d 1012, 1019 (1987)]. "Actual need must be shown in order to justify an award." Dech v. Dech, 342 Pa. Super. 17, 23, 492 A.2d 41, 44 (1985), citing Hoover v. Hoover, 288 Pa. Super. 159, 161-162, 431 A.2d 337, 338 (1981). Counsel fees are appropriate when necessary to put the parties "on a par" in defending their rights or in allowing a ...