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“Double Dipping” in Divorce and Support Cases

“Double dipping” refers to the act of counting an asset for equitable distribution purposes in a divorce matter while also counting it for income purposes in a related support matter. For example, if the wife in a divorce proceeding received a $20,000 settlement from a car accident during the parties’ marriage and the funds were included as a marital asset in her divorce, that same $20,000 could not also be counted towards her yearly income in order to establish her spousal support obligation to her husband.

In the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Rohrer v. Rohrer case, decided in 1998, the Court made it clear that placing an asset in both the category of an “asset” as well as “income” is “double dipping” and is prohibited. Essentially, double dipping is unfair because it means that a party is paying a percentage of the same asset to the other party twice, once in the distribution of the marital estate and again in their support obligation. In Rohrer, wife sought to include a portion husband’s retained business earnings in her equitable distribution award, though those earnings had already been included in his income in the parties’ support proceeding. The Court ruled that husband’s retained earnings from his business for the years wife had been receiving support should be excluded from consideration in the parties’ divorce proceeding, because Wife had already received an increased support amount based off of those earnings.

The Court was careful to distinguish Husband’s retained earnings in the years he was paying support from his retained earnings during the marriage. The funds that Husband accumulated during the marriage did not form a basis for Wife’s support award, and therefore, the Court ruled that earnings accumulated prior to Wife’s support filing should be equitably distributed between the parties in their divorce proceedings.

If you would like to discuss your unique divorce or support case with one of our attorneys, contact Tanner Law Offices at (717) 731-8114 to schedule a consultation.