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Harvey v. Harvey

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

July 3, 2017

CAROL J. HARVEY Appellee
v.
RICHARD H. HARVEY Appellant

         Appeal from the Decree August 31, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of York County Civil Division at No(s): 2013-FC-1193-02 2013-FC-1193-15

          BEFORE: SHOGAN, J., OTT, J., and STABILE, J.

          OPINION

          OTT, J.

         Richard H. Harvey (Husband) appeals from the Decree in Divorce entered August 31, 2016, in the Court of Common Pleas of York County, that severed the bonds of matrimony between the parties, and made final and appealable the equitable distribution orders entered January 23, 2014, and April 25, 2016. Husband contends: (1) The Honorable Harry Ness abused his discretion and committed an error of law in his Order, dated January 17, 2014, and entered January 23, 2014, wherein he determined the marital residence was marital property subject to equitable distribution; and (2) The Honorable N. Christopher Menges abused his discretion and committed an error of law in his Order, dated and entered April 25, 2016, wherein he awarded Carol J. Harvey (Wife) 60 percent of the escrowed funds from the sale of the marital residence, and 40 percent to Husband. See Husband's Brief at 4. Based upon the following, we affirm the Decree in Divorce, vacate the Orders of January 23, 2014, and April 25, 2016, and remand to the trial court for an order awarding each party 50% of the escrowed proceeds from the sale of the marital residence.

         Both issues raised in this appeal concern the marital residence. On June 29, 1993, prior to their marriage, the parties purchased the marital residence as joint tenants with the right of survivorship. Subsequently,

[t]he parties were married on September 10, 1993.[1] On September 2, 1993, the parties entered into a valid prenuptial agreement. [Wife] reviewed the prenuptial agreement with Attorney Robert Stickler prior to signature.
[Wife] is seventy-two (72) years old. [Wife] suffers from diabetes, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and high blood pressure and takes multiple medications for these conditions. [Wife] has medical insurance coverage through Medicare and secondary insurance coverage through Aetna.
[Husband] is seventy-eight (78) years old. [Husband] suffers from coronary artery disease, peripheral neuropathy, and spinal problems and takes multiple medications for these conditions.
Both parties are currently retired. [Wife] is on a monthly fixed income from Social Security of $1, 806 and three (3) Horace Mann annuities that total $934 per month. [Husband] is on a monthly fixed income from Social Security of $1, 545 and PSERS pension of $2, 406 per month.
The parties split all material expenses fifty-fifty (50/50) during the marriage. Specifically, from the date of the parties' marriage until [Wife] filed for divorce, each party paid fifty (50%) of each mortgage payment. Each party paid fifty (50%) of all real estate taxes and homeowner's insurance. Each party paid fifty (50%) percent of all household utilities.
The parties equally contributed to the purchase of the marital residence. At the time the parties purchased the marital residence, [Wife] did not have fifty percent (50%) of the down payment and closing costs to contribute towards the ma[rital] residence. [Wife] therefore executed a judgment note to [Husband] in the amount of $44, 169.72 representing her half of the down payment. After the parties' marriage, [Wife] sold her premarital residence and paid [Husband] in full the amount owed in full under the Judgment note.

Trial Court Opinion, 4/25/2016, at 1-3.

         Wife filed a Complaint in Divorce on July 3, 2013. Thereafter, on December 6, 2013, she filed a Petition for Special Relief.

         In her Petition, Wife asserted: "The parties executed a Prenuptial Agreement. The parties agree that the Prenuptial Agreement covers most of the property of the parties that would otherwise be marital. They disagree as to whether it covers the marital residence[.]" Wife's Petition for Special Relief, 12/6/2013, at ¶4.

         Wife's Petition for Special Relief further stated:

The Divorce Master provided a summary of the recent proceedings in a Memorandum dated December 3, 2013 as follows:
At the [Discovery Conference], the parties advised that there is a valid Antenuptial Agreement in this case. While the parties agree that the Agreement is valid, they disagree as to the interpretation of it. Husband argues that the agreement precludes the creation of marital property and equitable distribution. He further argues that the marital residence was purchased by the parties prior to marriage and thus is excluded per the agreement. Wife argues that when the marital residence was deeded to the parties as tenants by the entirety during the marriage, it constituted a gift to the marital estate and became marital property subject to equitable distribution. If the court interprets the agreement in the same manner as Wife, Husband's separate estate will be relevant and thus, discovery regarding it appropriate. If, however, the court interprets the agreement in the same manner as Husband, then discovery is not appropriate. Therefore, the master will place the discovery appointment on hold while the parties seek a determination of the appropriate interpretation of the agreement.

Id. at ¶ 6.

         Wife averred that "[t]he marital residence was purchased by the parties as joint tenants with a right of survivorship just prior to the marriage", and "[a]nother Deed was executed by the parties after the marriage on September 24, 2002 as part of a refinancing that converted the marital residence into tenants in the entireties." Id. at ¶¶ 8-9. Wife requested the court's interpretation of the parties' Antenuptial Agreement, "specifically, whether the Deed executed by the parties on or about September 24, 2002 constituted a gift to the marriage making the marital residence marital property subject to [the equitable] distribution." Id. (Wherefore Clause).

         A hearing on the Petition was scheduled for January 16, 2014. On January 15, 2014, Wife filed a Memorandum of Law, and Husband filed a Brief in Support of Terms of Antenuptial Agreement.

         In advance of the hearing, the parties entered into a Stipulation of Facts for the January 16, 2014, hearing.[2] The Stipulation set forth, in relevant part:

7. The parties were married on September 10, 1993 in York, Pennsylvania.
8. On September 2, 1993 the parties executed an Antenuptial Agreement, a copy of which is attached hereto and incorporated herein as Exhibit "A".
12. The parties jointly purchased the marital residence on June 29, 1993 in anticipation of their marriage. The June 29, 1993 deed names the parties as Richard H. Harvey and Carol J. Baker (Wife's prior name) as joint tenants with the right of survivorship.
13. At the time the parties purchased the residence, Wife did not have 50% of the down payment and closing costs to contribute toward the marital residence. Wife therefore executed a Judgment Note to Husband in the amount of $44, 169.72 representing her half of the down payment and closing costs for the purchase of the marital residence.
14. After the parties' marriage, Wife sold her premarital residence and paid Husband in full the amount owed in full under the Judgment Note.[3]
15. The marital residence was subject to a mortgage when the parties purchased the marital residence.
16. On September 24, 2002 the parties refinanced the house and obtained a lower interest rate. The September 24, 2002 mortgage was in the amount of $87, 000.
17.At the time that the parties refinanced the marital residence on September 24, 2002, the parties executed a new deed to the marital residence and the grantee clause reads: "Richard H. Harvey, Sr. and Carol J. Harvey, husband and wife, of Manchester Township, York County, Pennsylvania." From the date of the parties' marriage until Wife filed the Complaint for Divorce, each party paid 50% of each mortgage payment. Each party paid 50% of all real estate taxes and homeowner's insurance. Each party paid 50% of all household utilities.

Joint Stipulation of Facts, 6/26/2015, Exhibit "C" (Stipulation of Facts for January 16, 2014 Hearing, at ¶¶7-8, 12-17).

         The hearing on Wife's Petition was held on January 16, 2014. The trial judge, the Honorable Harry Ness, determined that if testimony was unnecessary, an order would be entered based on the briefs and stipulation of facts. See N.T., 1/16/2014, at 2. Thereafter, counsel presented legal argument to the court, and the trial judge confirmed with counsel he would enter an opinion based upon the joint stipulation of facts. Id. at 8-9.

         By order dated January 17, 2014, and entered January 23, 2014, Wife's ...


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