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[U] Rende v. Rende

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 3, 2014

PAMELA O. RENDE Appellee
v.
PERRY J. RENDE Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Decree April 2, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Family Court at No(s): FD 09-2313-004

BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., OTT, J., and WECHT, J.

MEMORANDUM

OTT, J.

Perry J. Rende (Husband) appeals from the decree of divorce entered on April 2, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. This decree made final the orders of October 5, 2012, January 10, 2013, and January 25, 2013 allowing Wife to proceed with her exceptions without providing a copy of the notes of testimony, and subsequently granting, in part, Wife's exceptions to the Master's Report regarding distribution of marital assets.[1] Because we cannot determine the basis of the trial court's decision to significantly modify the Master's recommendations, we must remand for clarification.

Husband has appealed the trial court's order and raises five issues, that for simplicity we will restate as two: (1) did the trial court err in allowing Wife to proceed with her exceptions without producing a transcript, and subsequently decide the matter without the benefit of the transcript, and (2) did the trial court err in granting, in part, Wife's exceptions without due deference to the Master's determinations.

For purposes of this memorandum, we will briefly recount the factual and procedural history.

After approximately 17 years of marriage, the parties separated on July 4, 2004. In 2012, the parties took part in a two-day hearing, August 28 and 29, 2012, before a Master to resolve contested issues of equitable distribution. On September 12, 2102, the Master filed and served on the parties her Report and Recommendations.[2]

In relevant part, the Master recommended Husband's IBEW pension, valued at approximately $41, 000.00 would be divided equally. Additionally, Husband would pay Wife alimony of $900.00 per month for 18 months. The alimony recommendation represented a total alimony obligation of $16, 200.00.

On September 27, 2012, Wife filed exceptions, challenging, in relevant part, the recommendations listed above. On the same date, Wife also filed a motion requesting permission to proceed with her exceptions without supplying a transcript to the trial court. The motion asserted the exceptions did not require the notes of testimony to resolve as she would stipulate to the Master's factual determinations but challenge the conclusions drawn therefrom.[3] On October 5, 2012, eight days after the motion was served, it was docketed and granted by the trial court. The timing of this appears to contravene Local Rule 208.3(2)(b) which mandates a ten-day period from serving the motion to presentation.[4]

Although it appears that an oral argument on the exceptions was scheduled for January 10, 2013, the docket contains no entry for January 10, 2013 and there is no other record of what transpired that day. See Docket

On January 14, 2013, the Order of January 10, 2013 was docketed. This order significantly modified the Master's recommendations. Specifically, Wife was granted Husband's entire IBEW pension, and Husband's alimony obligation was increased to $1, 500.00 per month for 60 months.

The $40, 000.00 modification regarding the pension represents $20, 000.00 taken from Husband and given to Wife. Husband's obligations regarding attorney's fees more than doubled. The modification to Husband's alimony obligation represents more than 500% increase in total alimony payments. Both of these modifications represent significant deviations from the Master's recommendations.

Our scope of review in equitable distribution matters is limited. Awards of alimony, counsel fees, and property distribution are within the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed absent an error of law or abuse of discretion. Berrington v. Berrington, 409 Pa.Super. 355, 598 ...

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