No. 971 Philadelphia, 1984, Appeal from the Order Entered on March 19, 1984 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, DR NO 78-07234
William P. James, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Catherine M. Baggiano, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Cirillo, Montemuro and Cercone, JJ.
[ 335 Pa. Super. Page 13]
This appeal on jurisdictional grounds only, is from an order which modified appellee-father's visitations and rejected his request that appellant-mother be held in contempt for violation of a visitation order. Because we find that the trial court was without jurisdiction to modify the pre-existing order, we reverse.
A review of the history of this case is necessary. The parties were married in 1970; three children were born to them: Jason, born June 21, 1971, and Saul and Rena, twins born November 7, 1972. The couple and Jason lived in Philadelphia until the middle of 1972, when they moved to Cherry Hill, New Jersey. In 1976 appellant-mother moved with the three children back to Philadelphia. A decree in divorce was entered by a New Jersey court on May 25, 1976.
On November 21, 1978, appellant-mother sought child support from their father in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County and an order was entered for support.
[ 335 Pa. Super. Page 14]
On January 5, 1981, appellant-mother, after her marriage to Aaron Lantz, moved with the children to Woodmere, Long Island, New York. On March 4, 1982, appellee-father filed a petition with the Philadelphia court seeking child visitation and an order was entered on June 18, 1982 on visitation. On December 24, 1982, the father filed a petition to hold the mother in contempt for failure to abide by the visitation order.
Then, on September 19, 1983, at a pre-trial conference, the mother challenged the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania courts to rule on the subject of visitation. The court requested that the parties outline their respective positions in letters directed to the court. On November 15, 1983, the court wrote to counsel that it had decided "under the totality of the circumstances" that it had jurisdiction to decide the contempt and visitation issues. A hearing was scheduled for November 23, 1983, at which time the mother renewed her objections to the court's jurisdiction by notifying the court that written preliminary objections would be filed. An interim visitation schedule was agreed to by the parties.
The court declined the mother's request for a hearing on the jurisdiction issue and entered an order on December 20, 1983, to-wit:
"AND NOW, this 20th day of December, 1983, the issue of jurisdiction of this Court having already been decided based upon a review of the record as agreed by counsel for both parties we find that the preliminary objections of plaintiff, ...