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).”

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