Appeal from Decree March 13, 1987, in the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County, Civil, No. 1982-1405.
John R. Miller, Jr., State College, for appellant.
Stephen W. Furst, Bellefonte, for appellee.
Cavanaugh, Olszewski and Kelly, JJ.
This is an appeal from an order granting a decree in divorce and incorporating a previously vacated award of equitable distribution of marital property. Appellant maintains that the trial court erred in: (1) failing to dismiss the
action, (2) ordering economic issues to be heard apart from divorce issues without hearing on appellee's praecipe, (3) denying appellant's motion for bifurcation and rehearing, (4) granting a decree in divorce incorporating the previously vacated equitable distribution order; (5) finding Pa.R.C.P. No. 1920.53(a)(1) inapplicable to the filing of the master's report; and (6) affirming the master's report. We affirm.
The parties were married on November 16, 1963, and separated on January 28, 1982, when appellee left the marital home. On June 9, 1982, appellee filed a complaint in divorce, alleging specific fault grounds and that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The complaint also included claims for spousal and child support, determination of custody of the parties' children, alimony, alimony pendente lite, counsel fees, costs and equitable distribution of marital property. On January 24, 1983, appellee filed a praecipe to list the matter for hearing on issues of equitable distribution, alimony, counsel fees and costs. By order dated March 31, 1983, the trial court directed the parties to appear for hearing on May 10, 1983. A master's hearing on the economic issues was held on the date designated by the trial court and continued on September 13, 1983, by stipulation of the parties' counsels. On April 3, 1985, the master filed his report and proposed order recommending that appellee be awarded fifty-five percent of the value of marital property. In addition, the master recommended that appellee have the right to enter a judgment against appellant in the amount of $173,355.41. Exceptions to the master's report were timely filed. On April 26, 1985, appellant filed an answer to the divorce complaint denying averments of fault and admitting that the marriage is irretrievably broken. In addition, appellant filed a counterclaim praying for divorce on averments of fault by appellee. By orders docketed September 19 and 26, 1985, exceptions were denied and the master's proposed order was issued. On September 25, 1985, appellee filed a 201(c)*fn1 affidavit of consent to divorce
and a notice of affidavit pursuant to 23 P.S. § 201(d).*fn2 Thereafter, on October 16, 1985, appellant appealed to this Court. On July 9, 1986, a per curiam order was entered quashing the appeal as interlocutory because a divorce decree had not yet been entered. See Dech v. Dech, 342 Pa. Super. 17, 492 A.2d 41 (1985) (entry of divorce decree is prerequisite to an order for alimony or equitable distribution of martial property). The trial court orders were vacated, and the matter was remanded to the trial court for entry of a divorce decree. On September 30, 1986, appellant filed a motion to dismiss the action by decree of non pros. After hearing on the motion, the trial court ordered appellee to move for entry of final decree in divorce within twenty days of the date of the order or appellee's action in divorce would be dismissed. Appellee complied with the trial court order, and a final decree in divorce was entered on March 13, 1987. The final decree incorporated the orders, previously vacated by this Court, distributing the parties' martial assets. Prior to the entry of the final decree and after receipt of the trial court's order directing appellee to move for entry of a final decree in divorce, appellant filed a petition for bifurcation of divorce and economic issues and rehearing. On March 17, 1987, the trial court denied the petition after hearing on March 10,
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