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Dean v. Dean

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

August 13, 2014

THOMAS A. DEAN, Appellant
v.
JOAN A. DEAN, Appellee

Appeal from the Order of October 24, 2013. In the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County. Civil Division at No.: 10-4283.

Konrad B. Jarzyna, Reading, for appellant.

Lawrence Sager, Pottstown, for appellee.

BEFORE: LAZARUS, J., WECHT, J., and MUSMANNO, J. OPINION BY WECHT, J.

OPINION

Page 638

WECHT, J.

Thomas Dean (" Husband" ) appeals the October 24, 2013 order that denied his exceptions to a master's report regarding equitable distribution and that denied Husband's motion for sanctions. After review, we hold that the trial court erred in denying one of Husband's exceptions. Therefore, we vacate the order in part, affirm in part, and remand with instructions.

Page 639

Husband and Joan Dean (" Wife" ) married on May 30, 1986, and separated in February 2010. This was the third marriage for each party. There were no children of the marriage, although both parties have children from their prior marriages. On March 2, 2010, Husband filed a complaint in divorce.

On May 2, 2012, the court appointed a master to conduct a hearing and issue a report to resolve the parties' economic claims. On August 8, 2012, Wife's mother, Violet Godfrey (" Godfrey" ) filed a petition to intervene because Godfrey was living in the marital residence and asserted that she had a " substantial interest" in the disposition and a " due process right to protect her right of possession" of the marital residence. On September 18, 2012, the trial court granted the parties' divorce and retained jurisdiction over the economic issues. On October 3, 2012, upon the consent of the parties, the trial court permitted Godfrey to intervene.

On March 14, 2013, the master conducted an equitable distribution hearing. On April 15, 2013, the master issued his report and recommendation and proposed order. In that report, the master concluded that the parties had two main assets, a cabin that had been sold with the proceeds being split equally, and the marital residence. As for the marital residence, the master applied a seven percent cost of sale and determined that the value available for distribution was $168,330. The master gave Wife a credit for the proceeds from Wife's former residence that were pre-marital and that she used in the purchase of the marital residence. The master also found that Wife had arranged the loans for the marital residence and used money from a long-term savings plan with her employer. The master recognized that Wife received a " buy-out" from her employer that would be subject to a coverture fraction as a portion was marital. However, that buy-out plus money from Wife's retirement plan was used to pay off the marital residence.[1] The master applied the coverture fraction to the remaining equity in the marital residence to determine that $69,466 was the marital portion of the residence. The master determined that a 75/25 split favoring Wife was equitable. Wife was awarded the marital residence and was ordered to pay Husband $17,366.65. Recognizing that Wife had limited liquid assets and an outstanding home equity line of credit, the master recommended that Wife be given options to pay Husband. Specifically, Wife could execute a note for the total amount plus interest to act as a lien on the property to be paid when Wife sold the property or upon her death; Wife could pay the lump sum within ninety days; or Wife could make an initial payment of $5,000 within ninety days and make installment payments on the remainder plus interest over a period of three years.

On April 30, 2013, Husband filed exceptions to the report. Also on April 30, 2013, Husband filed a motion for sanctions in which he argued that Godfrey made representations in her petition to intervene that were contradicted by her later deposition testimony and that Wife and Godfrey should be ordered to pay his counsel fees for responding to the petition.

Page 640

Following oral argument, on October 24, 2013, the trial court denied Husband's exceptions and his motion for sanctions. On November 22, 2013, Husband filed a notice of appeal. The trial court ordered, and Husband timely filed, a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). Thereafter, the trial court filed its opinion.

Husband presents three issues for our review:

1. Whether the lower court abused its discretion and/or committed an error of law in its calculation/determination of the value of the marital residence for the purposes of the equitable distribution and [Husband's] interest therein.
2. Whether the lower court abused its discretion and/or committed an error of law by allowing [Wife] to pay [Husband's] share of ...

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