Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Chester County, No. 1458 N 1978.
Bernard M. Berman, Media, for appellant.
Frederick W. McBrien, Norristown, for appellee.
Wieand, Watkins and Geisz,*fn* JJ.
[ 343 Pa. Super. Page 19]
After a state court having jurisdiction to do so has entered an order for the support of a child, can the court thereafter act sua sponte and without notice to the parties to terminate the support order and transfer the case to the courts of another state because the parties have moved their residences from Pennsylvania? We hold that it cannot. Therefore, we reverse the order of the trial court.
On November 3, 1978, Mark Bliss and Ursula Bliss, residents of Chester County, entered an agreed order requiring Mark to pay the sum of $80 per week for the support of his son, Christopher. Subsequently, Mark moved to New York; and Ursula, who had custody of Christopher, returned with her son to her native Germany. On January 16, 1981, the parties filed an agreement to modify the prior support order. Their agreement included the following: "[husband] herein hereby submits to the jurisdiction of the appropriate Chester County Domestic Relations Office for child support matters only and agrees to submit to the jurisdiction of any court for enforcement of child support matters regardless of the residence of the parties . . . ." The support order was modified by court order on August 20, 1981. A further modification occurred, by and with the agreement of the parties, on January 27, 1983.
[ 343 Pa. Super. Page 20]
On January 25, 1984, without notice to the parties, the court "heard" a request by its Domestic Relations Officer to transfer the support order to New York and close the matter in Chester County.*fn1 On March 28, 1984, the court acted sua sponte to transfer the support order to the courts of New York and terminate all proceedings in Chester County, effective January 25, 1984. The record does not disclose that notice of the court's order was ever given to either party.*fn2 Ursula's attorney learned of the order by chance and promptly, on May 7, 1984, filed a petition requesting the court to vacate its transfer order. This petition was dismissed on July 6, 1984. Ursula appealed.
The law is clear that the courts of Chester County had jurisdiction to enter a valid order of support against Mark, a resident of Chester County. See: Pa.R.C.P. 1910.2(a). It is equally clear that the court retained jurisdiction thereafter to enforce its order. It did not lose jurisdiction merely because the parties subsequently moved out of Chester County. Commonwealth ex rel. Jones v. Jones, 272 Pa. Super. 417, 419, 416 A.2d 526, 526-527 (1979); Commonwealth ex rel. Fiebig v. Fiebig, 258 Pa. Super. 300, 304, 392 A.2d 804, 806 (1978); Commonwealth v. Peters, 178 Pa. Super. 82, 87, 113 A.2d 327, 329 (1955). Accord: Commonwealth ex rel. Davidow v. Davidow, 223 Pa. Super. 99, 103, 296 A.2d 862, 863 (1972). Moreover, Mark had expressly consented to the continuing jurisdiction of the court of Chester County. See: Commonwealth ex rel. Slossberg v. Slossberg, 208 Pa. Super. 419, 421, 222 A.2d 490, 491 (1966).
The trial court relied erroneously upon Pa.R.C.P. 1910.8. This rule provides, in part, that "[f]or the convenience
[ 343 Pa. Super. Page 21]
of parties and witnesses the court may transfer an action to the appropriate court of any other county where the action could have been brought originally or at the time of transfer." This is a rule embodying the concept of forum non conveniens. It provides for a change of venue in support actions under substantially the same standards established for civil actions by Pa.R.C.P. 1006(d). The rule, however, permits transfers only between courts of the several counties in Pennsylvania. It does not purport to sanction interstate transfers. It is also significant that although the rule, as distinguished from Rule 1006(d), does not expressly ...