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.

Finally, the court must calculate the total amount of credit for expenses paid on the home. These expenses would include the mortgage payments and other ordinary expenses related to the home. Similar to any rental credit due, expenses should be split in half to reflect each party’s ownership interest. If the rental value exceeds the expenses related to the home, the spouse that has left the home should get a credit for ½ of the rental value offset by the expenses. An argument for fair rental value is most likely to occur where the home is owned outright such that no mortgage payments are made or there are relatively small monthly payments on any debt associated with the house compared to what the home could rent for.

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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.

Subsection (b) of the statute addresses divorce decrees granted outside of the jurisdiction. In that event, notice to retake maiden name can still be filed after a certified copy of the foreign decree has been filed with court where notice to retake maiden name is being filed. The form of the notice to retake prior surname is below. It is also available on the Bucks County Prothonotary website.


Notice is hereby given that (Current Name) , having been granted a Final Decree of Divorce on (Date) , hereby elects to retake and resume the prior surname of (Prior Name) and gives this written notice avowing her intention in accordance with 54 Pa.C.S.A. Section 704.

(Current Name)


(Prior Name)

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.

Another requirement prior to obtaining a name change is to publish notice of the petition and hearing date. Generally notice must be published in the law reporter for the county as well as a newspaper of general circulation. This is to notify anyone who may have an objection to the name change and grant them the opportunity to appear in court and state their objections. The total fees can be in the range upwards of $500 excluding attorney fees if representation is desired.

In the case of a minor child, service must be made on the other parent if there whereabouts are known. Otherwise, notice may be accomplished solely by the publication that is already required but permission of the court should be sought to skip specific service on the other parent. If both parents are in agreement with a name change to a minor, the simpler option is to request a correction to the birth certificate through vital records rather than foot the expense to file a petition and seek a hearing. Fingerprinting and other background checks are not required if a name change for a minor must be sought through the court due to lack of contact with the other parent or lack of mutual agreement on the desired change.

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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.

Section 3105(a) discusses the court’s obligation to enforce agreements between the parties. Accordingly, if an agreement has been made regarding the marital residence and one party refuses to comply, there is the option of taking the issue before the court for enforcement. Again, this may result in an order for the home to be listed for sale, for a certain realtor to be chosen and/or for a certain listing price. Deductions in the listing price can also be requested and awarded. The best agreements will contemplate issues which may arise and set forth contingency plans. For example, a party can specify at the outset how reductions will be made to the listing price if the home has not sold within a certain time frame. It is also useful to explain how parties will be compensated, if at all, for any pricey expenses/repairs above the costs of regular maintenance to ensure the home will sell.

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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.

Even if an employee does not elect a survivor benefit, in certain cases it can still be established through court order. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order may be necessary to establish the award of a survivor benefit. Whether or not the award of a survivor benefit is appropriate likely depends on if there is an offset for the interest in the pension or a deferred distribution. With an offset, the employee keeps their entire pension and the other party is awarded other assets such that the parties still achieve an equitable distribution. With a deferred distribution, where the spouse of the employee will be receiving an actual portion of the pension but not until the employee retires, the survivor benefit can act as an insurance policy to ensure the spouse will receive some benefit from the pension even if the employee dies prior to retirement. The best course of action is to obtain and review all plan documents on the retirement/pension and any prior elections of the employee as a first step in determining how to reach an equitable distribution and what options are at your disposal.

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