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Miller v. Miller

October 9, 2009

VALERIE H. MILLER, APPELLEE
v.
WILLIAM R. MILLER AND UPPER ST. CLAIR SCHOOL DISTRICT AND UPPER ST. CLAIR TOWNSHIP,
v.
WILLIAM R. MILLER AND VALERIE H. MILLER,
APPEAL OF: WILLIAM R. MILLER, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order entered on April 3, 2008 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Family Court Division, No. FD-93-12111-006.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Musmanno, J.

BEFORE: MUSMANNO, DONOHUE and SHOGAN, JJ.

OPINION

¶ 1 William R. Miller (hereinafter "Husband") appeals, pro se, from the Order granting the Motion for summary judgment filed by his ex-wife, Valerie H. Miller (hereinafter "Wife").*fn1 We affirm.

¶ 2 The complex factual and procedural history underlying this acrimonious dispute is as follows. The parties married in 1979 and had four children ("the children") during their marriage, all of whom are currently emancipated. The parties resided with the children in their jointly-owned marital residence located in Upper St. Clair Township, Pennsylvania ("the marital residence") until they separated in 1993. Following their separation, the parties executed a postnuptial separation agreement ("the Agreement"),*fn2 which was drafted by Husband, a practicing attorney. The parties were divorced in April 1994; the Agreement was incorporated by reference but did not merge into the Divorce Decree.

¶ 3 The Agreement provides, in pertinent part, as follows regarding the marital residence:

[Husband] shall be solely responsible for payment of the . . . mortgage currently on the Marital Residence, which mortgage has a $43,535.99 balance due as of the date of this Agreement. [Husband] shall also be responsible for the payment of taxes and insurance on the Martial [sic] Residence.

Husband's Complaint, 10/12/07, Exhibit A (the Agreement) § 3.1. Subsection 3.1 further states that "[i]n the event the Marital Residence is sold, [Wife] and [Husband] shall equally share [] the expenses of the sale[] and [] the net proceeds, . . . and [Husband] shall be reimbursed $43,535.99. . . ." Id.

¶ 4 After the divorce in 1994, Wife and the children continued to reside in the marital residence, whereas Husband resided elsewhere. Wife continues to reside in the marital residence to this day. Following the divorce, Husband continued to pay the mortgage, taxes, and insurance on the marital residence until approximately October 1996.

¶ 5 In August 1996, Wife filed a Complaint for support of the children. Following a hearing on September 30, 1996, before a Hearing Officer (hereinafter "H.O."), an Interim Order was issued on that same day (hereinafter "Interim Order"). The Interim Order set forth and implemented the H.O.'s recommendations.*fn3 The Interim Order directed that Husband pay monthly child support in the amount of $2,345.00, and also provided that "[Wife] is to pay the mortgage [on the marital residence*fn4], from[] [t]he monthly child support beginning October 1, 1996." Interim Order, 10/4/96 (footnote added, capitalization omitted). Neither party filed an exception to the Interim Order. Husband thereafter ceased making payments regarding the marital residence.

¶ 6 Following two subsequent hearings on Wife's Complaint, a different H.O. recommended that Husband pay child support in the amount of $2,370.00 per month. This recommendation was set forth in an administrative Modified Order dated February 18, 1997 ("Modified Order").*fn5 Significantly, the Modified Order was silent as to mortgage payment obligations or any other obligations regarding the marital residence. Both parties filed Exceptions to the H.O.'s recommendation. After oral argument and upon consideration of the parties' respective briefs, the trial court entered an Order on June 30, 1997, dismissing both parties' Exceptions and directing that the Modified Order be entered as the trial court's Final Order in the child support action (hereinafter "Final child support Order"). Husband's child support obligation terminated in June 2004, upon the emancipation of the parties' youngest child.

¶ 7 The record indicates that Wife made all payments towards the mortgage following the entry of the Interim Order, and that she paid the mortgage off in January 1999.*fn6 However, real estate taxes on the marital residence became delinquent. In July 2005, Upper St. Clair Township and School District ("U.S.C.") instituted a case against Husband and Wife as co-defendants, asserting a tax lien against the marital residence. U.S.C. maintained that Husband and Wife had unpaid local and school taxes (and also interest, penalties, and costs) outstanding on the marital residence. Husband and Wife filed cross-claims against each other in the U.S.C. dispute. In response to the tax lien asserted by U.S.C., Husband paid his proportionate share of the taxes due. U.S.C. thereafter dismissed its claim against Husband.

¶ 8 On November 15, 2005, Wife filed a Petition seeking enforcement of the Agreement pursuant to section 3105(a) of the Divorce Code.*fn7 In this Petition, Wife requested that the trial court compel Husband to pay all outstanding real estate taxes and reimburse her for all of her post-separation payments made on the marital residence (i.e., mortgage, tax, and insurance payments).*fn8

¶ 9 Husband then filed a Motion for summary judgment against Wife seeking damages in excess of $113,000.00 for, inter alia, her alleged failure to pay the mortgage, taxes, and insurance on the marital residence in accordance with the Interim Order. In this Motion, Husband asserted that the Interim Order, which directed Wife to pay the mortgage from his child support payments, superseded the Agreement and relieved him of his contractual obligation. Wife countered by filing a Motion for partial summary judgment, which asserted that the Interim Order did not supersede the Agreement and Husband's cessation of making payments on the marital residence constituted a breach of the Agreement. Specifically, Wife pointed out that pursuant to sub-section 3.1 of the Agreement, Husband assumed the sole responsibility to pay all mortgage, tax, and insurance payments on the marital residence until it was sold. By an Order entered on September 18, 2006, the trial court denied Husband's Motion and granted Wife's Motion for partial summary judgment, finding as a matter of law that Husband had breached his obligation under sub-section 3.1. The trial court also ordered a hearing before another H.O. to determine Wife's damages incurred as a result of Husband's breach.

ΒΆ 10 Following the damages hearing on December 7, 2007, the H.O. issued a Temporary Order on that same day ("Temporary Order") recommending that Husband pay damages in the following amounts: (1) $80,650.95 for the mortgage, tax, and insurance payments Wife had made on the marital residence, and (2) $17,235.00 for Wife's attorneys' fees and expenses. The H.O. further recommended that Husband pay the delinquent real estate taxes on the marital residence. Husband filed Exceptions to the H.O.'s recommendations. By an Order entered on April 3, 2008, the trial court dismissed ...


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