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Since a professional license does not have the attributes of property, it cannot be deemed "property" in the classical sense. Nor does the divorce code demonstrate any legislative intent to give "property" a different meaning than its traditional definition. Unless otherwise defined, words must be interpreted according to common usage. 1 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1903(a). Therefore, an advanced degree, such as a medical license, is not "property" under the divorce code.
Appellant husband, Arthur J. Hodge, and appellee wife, Patricia Hodge, were married while appellant was a medical student. During the marriage, appellee wife worked to support the family and to facilitate appellant's education. After appellant received his license to practice medicine, the parties divorced. The trial court appointed a special master to take testimony and make recommendations with regard to alimony and the division of property. After taking testimony, the master rejected Mrs. Hodge's claim that Dr. Hodge's medical license was 'marital property' under the Divorce Code, the master recommended $ 100 a week alimony for Mrs. Hodge until September 26, 1994. Mrs. Hodge filed exceptions to the master's determination that the medical license was not 'marital property', while Dr. Hodge excepted to the determination of alimony. After hearing arguments on the exceptions, the trial judge approved the recommendations of the special master and entered a final decree.
1. Was appellant's medical license a marital property under the Divorce Code?
2. Was the award of alimony proper?
1. The majority of the Court held that a professional license is not "marital property" subject to equitable distribution under the Divorce Code. Since a professional license is not property and any future earnings are not acquired during the marriage.
2. The Court found that both the special master and the lower courts applied section 501 incorrectly in determining the award of alimony. Both the special master and the trial court attempted to effectuate economic equality through the use of alimony. Although an honorable attempt to compensate the wife for lack of marital property, it clearly was improper. The Court ordered the matter be remanded to the trial court to determine whether appellee wife is entitled to alimony.