Basics of Pennsylvania Law: Double Dip, Part IV

This is the fourth in a series of posts containing summaries of Pennsylvania case law on the issue of double dipping in divorce. “Double dipping” occurs when an income-producing asset (such as a pension or business) is counted as marital property subject to equitable distribution, as well as income subject to an alimony or child support obligation.

McFadden v. McFadden, 563 A.2d 180 (Pa.Super.1989).

            McFadden was a post-divorce alimony modification proceeding.  In this case, the husband’s pension annuity benefit was in pay status, and he was receiving the entire pension benefit. Yet, the court found that the husband’s pension had not been identified as marital property at the time of equitable distribution. Therefore, the Superior Court did not reverse the trial court’s calculation of the husband’s income, which included the pension benefit. Most troubling, in dicta, the Superior Court held (per Popovich, J.): “[I]t is equally clear that income from a pension is to be considered when fashioning an alimony award, even if the pension was previously subjected to equitable distribution. See 23 Pa.S.A. § 501(b)(3), (10), (13); Pacella v. Pacella, 342 Pa.Super. 178, 190, 2492 A.2d 707, 711-712 (1985)(court did not err in consideration earlier equitable distribution property in fashioning alimony); Braderman, 488 A.2d at 620 (pension subject to equitable distribution also may be used to calculate alimony award).”

Basics of Pennsylvania Law: Double Dip, Part III

This is the third in a series of posts containing summaries of Pennsylvania case law on the issue of double dipping in divorce. “Double dipping” occurs when an income-producing asset (such as a pension or business) is counted as marital property subject to equitable distribution, as well as income subject to an alimony or child support obligation.

Miller v. Miller, 783 A.2d 832 (Pa. Super. 2001)

In Miller, the parties settled their division of property, and Wife subsequently sought a modification of child support based on the income that Husband derived from the sale of his share of marital assets. The Superior Court held that the proceeds from the sale of assets were not “income” within the statutory definition. The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s refusal to modify child support when the payor received proceeds from the sale of marital assets after the divorce and division of property. The double dip in Miller was another reason for the Court’s decision.

Rohrer v. Rohrer, 715 A.2d 463, 465 (Pa. Super. 1998).

            Rohrer was the first published decision to prohibit double dipping in Pennsylvania. (Interestingly, the opinion was written by Judge Popovich, who had held in McFadden that double dipping was permitted.) In Rohrer, the husband was an owner of a business organized as a Subchapter “S” corporation. At an early stage of the proceedings, the pass-through earnings of the business were included in the husband’s income when calculating his support obligations. At equitable distribution, the husband asked the master to exclude retained earnings from the value of the business, in order to avoid double dipping. Husband’s request was granted by the master, but only to the extent that retained earnings from the date of the support order forward into the future were excluded. The retained earnings that accrued prior to the support order were counted as part of the value of the business.

            The trial court reversed the master’s decision and excluded all of the retained earnings. On appeal, the Superior Court reversed and adopted the master’s finding. The Superior Court held that “money included in an individual’s income for the purpose of calculating support payments may not also be labeled as a marital asset subject to equitable distribution.” Rohrer, at 465.

Migrating Site

I will be migrating my web site this weekend to a new hosting plan, so there may be temporary outages. (I am converting from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.)  I will also be applying a new theme, adding new graphics, and starting to work on video content for the site. Please check back over the coming days for the changes!

Once You Pop the Question, How Do You Spring the Prenup?

Asking your fiance for a prenup doesn’t have to spoil the joy of your engagement. First, be sure to give your betrothed plenty of time to think about it. No one likes to be rushed. Next, try to put it in context and explain why you need a prenup. You might present the prenup along with wills, health care powers of attorney, living wills, insurance policies and other estate planning documents. Finally, encourage your fiance to hire independent legal counsel. You might even offer to pay the bill. Having separate representation will allow your loved one to ask questions that might be uncomfortable for you or your lawyer to answer. It also might ensure that your agreement is enforceable.

Recession Impact on Value: Known or Knowable?

The current economic recession has had a profound adverse impact on many businesses. So, in cases where we are asked to value businesses on a valuation date prior to the recession, how can we ignore what we know will happen? One of my favorite lecturers, Mel Abraham, answered this question in the BVResources newsletter this month by recalling an interaction he had with a California judge a few years ago. In that case, the business had lost its largest (60%) client six months after the valuation date, and Abraham had factored the risk of client loss into his discount rate and DCF calculations. When the judge argued that this was a subsequent event, Abraham agreed but countered, “The loss of the client was definitely a subsequent event, but the risk of losing the client was known and knowable as of the date of valuation.” Looking back to valuation dates, particularly in mid-2008, you cannot include loss of revenues or other damages that actually occurred as the result of this current economic downturn, he added. However, conditions known as of the valuation date (like heavy leverage, declining assets, or other high-risk indicators) could, should, and would have been known or knowable even prior to the stock market meltdown.

Basics of Pennsylvania Law: Double Dip, Part II

This is the second in a series of posts containing summaries of Pennsylvania case law on the issue of double dipping in divorce. “Double dipping” occurs when an income-producing asset (such as a pension or business) is counted as marital property subject to equitable distribution, as well as income subject to an alimony or child support obligation.

Cerny v. Cerny, 656 A.2d 507 (Pa.Super.1995).

            Prior to separation, the husband received a cash severance payment, which was counted as income in determining his support obligation. The severance payment was excluded (in a prior, unpublished Superior Court decision) from the marital estate to avoid double dipping. Subsequently, the IRS issued a tax refund to the husband, as the severance payment was not taxable income. The trial court held that the tax refund should be counted as marital property. On appeal, the Superior Court reversed, holding that the tax refund retained the same nonmarital nature as the income from which it was derived. The opinion does not reveal whether the tax was deducted from the payor’s income when determining his support obligation, but if so, then the result may have been inequitable.