Equitable Distribution


The court rejected wife’s request for alimony, but it awarded her a larger share of the parties’ assets in the divorce.

The parties were married in September 1991. Wife filed complaints for divorce and support in September 2013. In March 2019, the divorce master filed his report and recommendations. Both parties filed exceptions.

Wife sought to have husband maintain health insurance for the parties’ two minor children. Husband insisted he was unable to afford health insurance for them. The court ordered him to do so, but husband later filed a petition to terminate that obligation. Wife submitted the cost of obtaining health insurance through her employer. The court ordered her to pay for this coverage and required husband to reimburse her until all appeals in this case had concluded.

Husband was the sole owner of a business known as Silver Valley Mining and Blasting, Inc.  The parties provided vastly disparate evidence regarding the value of Silver Valley. The master adopted a compromise position. First, husband argues that the date of valuation should have been December 31, 2016, rather than a calculation based on the company’s 2013 income. Although courts normally preferred valuing assets as close to the date of distribution as possible, an earlier valuation date was permissible. The company’s performance in 2013 was an anomaly and unlikely to be repeated. The master adopted a later valuation date due to husband’s depletion of the company’s value. The court took on position no husband’s management or intentions, but it did find that he had complete control of the business, so it adopted the master’s valuation date. Both parties presented expert testimony on the company’s value, and the master found that wife’s expert was more credible. The court adopted the master’s value.

After the parties separated, wife had exclusive possession of the marital residence. Husband claimed he should have received a credit for the fair rental value of the residence. However, the court noted that husband was evicted from the home due to an abuse restraining order. Furthermore, even if husband were entitled to a credit, this amount had to be offset by a one-half share of the home equity loan and real estate tax. The remaining amount was de minimus in comparison to the overall distribution, so the court denied this exception.

The master’s schedule of distribution included a cash payment by husband to wife of $255,409.35. Wife believed husband would not pay this amount, so she asked the court to assign her specified personal property instead. The court found no legal authority to distribute the marital estate in this manner, so it overruled the exception. Wife also argued she should have been awarded a timeshare, but the parties had already deeded their interest in this property back to the timeshare company. This disposition occurred in good faith, and wife has not previously asked to be awarded any interest in the timeshare. Husband objected to the master’s allocation of property, because wife received a somewhat larger share, but the court held this was appropriate under the facts, given the parties’ earning abilities.

Wife also took exception to the master’s recommendation that she should receive no alimony. Her annual earnings from employment were $36,000 per year, and together with the assets awarded to her in the divorce, the master concluded no alimony was warranted. The court agreed, because wife had a modest style of living and was able to meet her needs without alimony. However, the court did award her $10,000 in attorney fees.

Ref: Digests of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 43 PLW 743 Tuesday, August 18, 2020 Wean v. Wean, PICS Case No. 20-0805 (C.P. Monroe Oct. 24, 2019)

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