Appeal from Order entered March 18, 1988, in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Civil, No. 1404 N 1983.
John H. Wollman, West Chester, for appellant.
Thomas R. Wilson, West Chester, for appellee.
McEwen, Olszewski and Melinson, JJ. McEwen, J., concurs in the result.
This is an appeal from an order of the trial court resolving exceptions to a master's report. Appellant, Gerald F. Adams, contends that the trial court abused its discretion in: (1) failing to make the elimination of appellant's obligation to contribute a fixed amount per month to the mortgage payment on the marital residence retroactive to the sale of the residence in 1985; (2) reversing the hearing officer's special finding that appellee, Helen R. Adams, is employable despite her hearing handicap; and (3) refusing to consider appellant's increased federal tax liability in calculating his net income. For reasons delineated below, we affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.
Appellant and appellee were married on June 24, 1967, and separated on September 4, 1982. The parties parented two children, born in 1974 and 1977, during the marriage. At the time of separation, appellant was employed as an engineer at Hewlett Packard. Appellee had not been employed since the birth of the parties' first child.
Appellee filed a complaint for support on September 21, 1983. On October 27, 1983, the trial court entered a temporary support order pursuant to stipulation. A hearing officer, Katherine Platt, convened two hearings and subsequently recommended $1500.00 per month for support of appellee and the two children. Exceptions were filed and the trial court, by opinion dated June 25, 1984, noted that wife was not capable of contributing to her own support
and remanded for further proceedings to determine the amount of the principal portion of the mortgage payment in accordance with Kinden v. Kinden, 32 Ches. 106 (1984), which requires both parties, regardless of where each is residing, to contribute equally to the principal amount of the monthly mortgage payment on the theory that the equity in the marital residence is a joint asset. On September 19, 1984, after a hearing on the mortgage obligation, Ms. Platt increased appellant's support obligation to $1700.00 per month and imposed an additional obligation of $53.64 to be used by appellee for her Kinden payments. Exceptions were filed by both parties and the trial court, upon finding that the hearing officer erred in imposing a general support obligation of $1700.00 per month, again remanded the matter to the hearing officer. Ms. Platt on June 5, 1985, entered a supplemental finding and recommendation based upon the remand order and on her review of the existing record. No exceptions to that recommendation were filed and the trial court entered an order on June 24, 1985, directing appellant to make monthly payments of $753.00 for support of spouse and share of mortgage and $1,000.00 for support of two children.
On August 13, 1985, appellant filed an amended petition to reduce the support order, citing three material changes of circumstances: (1) appellee had become capable of contributing to her support as a result of education; (2) the marital residence had been sold;*fn1 and (3) appellant's income had decreased. On April 29, 1986, a hearing officer convened a hearing regarding appellant's petition and appellee's petition for medical coverage. On May 19, 1986, the hearing officer filed a recommendation to dismiss appellee's petition and a recommendation to modify the trial court's order of June 24, 1985. The parties filed exceptions and, on August 18, 1986, the trial court entered an order directing
that a hearing be held to supplement the record with regard to: (1) appellant's current living expenses; (2) the sale of appellant's condominium and its proceeds; and (3) repayment of condominium debts. The court further ordered the hearing officer to redetermine her previous recommendation.
Following hearings on April 29, 1986 and October 14, 1986, the hearing officer filed a recommendation to amend the trial court's order of June 24, 1985, to provide for $1570.00 per month total support effective May 19, 1986. In this order dated January 20, 1987, the hearing officer further recommended that appellant receive a credit for mortgage payments, the Kinden payments made by appellant on appellee's behalf in April and May 1985, and $636.00 in mortgage credits, representing the Kinden payments for the year since the sale of the house. Both parties filed exceptions to the recommendations. The trial court, upon finding that the hearing officer's recommendation lacked factual support, ...