No. 22 W.D. Appeal Dkt. 1982, Appeal from the revised Order of April 12, 1982 of the Court of Common Pleas of the Sixth Judicial District at No. 87-NS-1981, as further amended by Order of May 13, 1982.
Ronald J. Susmarski, Jay S. Nedell, Erie, for appellant.
Frank Scutella, Timothy J. Lucas, Asst. Dist. Attys., Michael J. Veshecco, Dist. Atty., Erie, for appellee.
Thomas S. Kubinski, Erie, for County of Erie.
O'Brien, C.j., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott and Hutchinson, JJ.
This is an appeal from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of the Sixth Judicial District which held unconstitutional a statute of limitations requiring that actions to
establish the paternity of a child born out of wedlock be commenced within six years of the birth of the child.*fn1 On September 9, 1980, Deborah Ann Astemborski, appellee, filed an application for support with the Commonwealth's Department of Public Welfare, and, in so doing, assigned to the Commonwealth all rights concerning support of her child. Accordingly, on December 30, 1980, she appeared at the intake office of the Erie County Domestic Relations Department and filled out a Complaint for Support which was dated and marked filed December 30, 1980. This complaint was taken to the Prothonotary in order to receive a civil number on January 29, 1981, fifteen days after the applicable six year statute of limitations had expired. The trial court held that the governing rule at the time required the complaint to be filed with the Prothonotary, not with the Domestic Relations Department. For this reason, the trial court concluded that the complaint was not timely filed, and the alleged father of appellee's child, appellant Robert Susmarski, moved for dismissal of the complaint. Dismissal was denied, however, as the court declared the statute of limitations invalid.
The primary issue*fn2 in the instant appeal is whether the six year statute of limitations violates equal protection guarantees
of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and of Article I, § 26 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Since support for a child born in wedlock may be sought at any time during its minority, while support for a child born out of wedlock may, due to the statute of limitations on establishment of paternity, be sought during only the first six years of a child's life, a disparity of treatment is alleged to exist in violation of equal protection guarantees. Specifically, appellee contends that the statute imposes a burden with respect to illegitimate children that is not ...