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ALLEN v. ALLEN

July 27, 1981

William B. ALLEN
v.
Christa H. ALLEN; Christa H. ALLEN v. William B. ALLEN



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BECKER

MEMORANDUM

The parties to this action, William B. Allen (William) and Christa H. Allen (Christa) are husband and wife. They are presently separated and are involved in a contested divorce proceeding in Bucks County, Pa. The actions before us essentially concern certain marital property of the parties, much of which is the subject of a number of other actions pending in Bucks County. This memorandum addresses the question whether the "domestic relations" exception to federal diversity jurisdiction, see Solomon v. Solomon, 516 F.2d 1018 (3rd Cir. 1975), divests us of the power to hear this case.

 We have before us two related actions. The first-filed, C.A. No. 79-2709, was instituted by William on February 21, 1979 in the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County. The action alleges that Christa breached a post-nuptial property settlement (separation) agreement by refusing to pay four existing mortgages and by refusing to pay an additional $ 10,000.00 sum, both of which debts she had allegedly agreed to assume by terms of the post-nuptial agreement. On July 24, 1979 Christa filed a petition for removal from the state court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, and the action was thereafter removed here. *fn1"

 On September 10, 1979 Christa filed an answer to the complaint, incorporating certain affirmative defenses and a counterclaim. These pleadings are predicated in significant part upon the fact that William is an attorney and that he represented both of them in connection with the post-nuptial agreement that lies at the heart of their dispute. Christa denies the validity of that agreement, alleging that William fraudulently obtained her signature through a series of misrepresentations, and that he thereby abused the fiduciary relationship assumed by acting as her attorney. In the counterclaim Christa seeks to enjoin William from recording the deed to his Pennsylvania home, to declare the property settlement void, and to return all personal property that she claims he confiscated. The allegations of this counterclaim are repleaded in and form the basis for C.A. No. 80-29, filed by Christa in this court on January 3, 1980, alleging diversity jurisdiction.

 On March 27, 1980, William moved to remand the first action to Bucks County, contending that this court lacked jurisdiction. He argued first that there was no diversity of citizenship *fn2" and, in the alternative, that the domestic relations exception to federal jurisdiction required that we stay our hand. On April 11, 1980, he moved to dismiss the second action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based upon the domestic relations exception only. Christa contests both of these motions, maintaining that these actions concern contractual, rather than domestic, matters, and that they are accordingly the appropriate subject of federal diversity jurisdiction.

 In addition to the two actions before this court, the following actions between Christa and William Allen are presently pending in the Bucks County courts:

 
(1) No. 78-16138-09-6, a custody action, initiated December 21, 1978, by William;
 
(2) No. 78-13170-06-6, a custody action, initiated December 22, 1978, by Christa;
 
(3) No. 79-894-12-6, a replevin action, initiated January 24, 1979, by Christa;
 
(4) No. 79-4668-05-3, a divorce action, initiated May 1, 1979, by William;
 
(5) No. 11033-06-D, a support action, initiated July 18, 1979, by Christa;
 
(6) No. AO6-80-612760-10-3, a suit for equitable distribution, initiated January 29, 1981, by Christa;
 
(7) & (8) two petitions for alimony initiated by Christa, on November 6, 1980, and December 27, 1979.

 In Solomon, supra, the Third Circuit described the development of the so-called domestic relations ...


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