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October 2014 Archives

Fair Rental Value

The issue of fair rental value arises where one spouse is no longer living in the marital residence pending finalization of a divorce action. The principle behind fair rental value is that the spouse that has moved out of the former marital residence still has a ½ interest in the property and accordingly, should be compensated for their interest. The court must consider a number of items in reaching an appropriate calculation of any rental credit due. First, the court must determine if there are any equitable defenses that should offset the total of any rental credit due. Second, the court must consider the length of the dispossession. Case law also establishes that the other spouse must be in actual possession of the home.

Retake Maiden Name

A spouse can elect to retake his or her prior name through the course of a divorce action. Pursuant to 54 P.S. § 504, "any person who is divorced from the bonds of matrimony may resume any prior surname used by him or her by filing a written notice to such effect in the office of the clerk of the court in which the decree of divorce was entered, showing the caption and docket number of the proceeding in divorce." It is also possible to request to retake your maiden name while the divorce is still pending in Bucks County. Check with your county court regarding any applicable filing fee. Currently Bucks County has a $9 filing fee.

Name Change

Adults seeking to legally change their name will need to file a petition with the court. In addition to completing the petition, the party should be prepared to pay a filing fee directly to court at the time of filing as well as supply a copy of their fingerprints. Fingerprinting can be done by the local police department where the filing party resides. The purpose of the fingerprinting is to allow for analysis of any criminal background, if applicable. The name change statute does not allow a change of name if certain crimes have been committed. A search through the Prothonotary's office and Recorder of Deeds will also need to be done prior to a successful name change to ensure there are no other concerns which may bar the application for a name change.

Issues with the Marital Residence

The family court has the authority to make determinations regarding a marital home even prior to or subsequent to a divorce decree. First, the court can grant one of the parties exclusive possession of the home while the divorce is pending under Section 3502 of the Divorce Code. Case law, however, has indicated that an award for exclusive possession should not be given lightly and the party requesting it has the burden of proving its necessity. Section 3323 gives the court general equity powers to issue any order necessary to protect the interests of the parties or as justice requires. This can include an order mandating a party to pay the mortgage on time, forcing the home to be sold if neither party can afford it, and even decisions on which realtor should be used or what the listing price should be. 

Survivor Benefits

Survivor benefits refer to the benefit that can be paid to the selected beneficiary following the death of the employee. This type of benefit is most frequently available in the context of a pension plan. A survivor benefit is a marital asset that should be addressed in the context of a divorce. Additionally, the survivor benefit is a separate asset than the pension itself such that a spouse could receive a portion of the actual pension as well as the survivor beneficiary designation. The employee may need to choose whether they want to establish a survivor benefit at the time of retirement. The election of a survivor benefit can result in the reduction of the benefit the employee will receive during their lifetime. 

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