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JOSEPH JOHN MOFFITT v. JUDITH MARIE MOFFITT (02/24/86)

submitted: February 24, 1986.

JOSEPH JOHN MOFFITT
v.
JUDITH MARIE MOFFITT, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order entered November 4, 1985 in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Civil, No. 1985-C-3917.

COUNSEL

Samuel F. Feldman, Allentown, for appellant.

Sandra A. Sernak, Scranton, for appellee.

Olszewski, Hoffman and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Roberts

[ 356 Pa. Super. Page 143]

This is an appeal from an order dismissing, for lack of jurisdiction, a counterclaim in a custody action. We hold that in the circumstances presented, the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction to determine the merits of the counterclaim under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 5341-5366. Accordingly, we vacate the order dismissing the counterclaim and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (hereinafter "UCCJA" or "the Act") was designed to insure that custody disputes would be heard in the state where the child and his family had the closest connection, to discourage abductions by parents without legal custody of their children, and to promote cooperation between states issuing custody awards, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5342, Commonwealth ex rel. Zaubi v. Zaubi, 275 Pa. Super. 294, 300, 418 A.2d 729 (1980), aff'd, 492 Pa. 183, 423 A.2d 333 (1980). Accordingly, § 5344 of

[ 356 Pa. Super. Page 144]

    the Act provides three bases for the assumption of jurisdiction in a child custody dispute: first, a Pennsylvania court can take jurisdiction if Pennsylvania a) is the child's home state at the commencement of the proceeding, or b) had been his "home state" within six months of commencement, and one of his parents continues to live in the Commonwealth. Second, a Pennsylvania court has jurisdiction when the child and at least one of the parties contesting custody have a significant connection with Pennsylvania and substantial evidence is available here concerning the child's present or future care, protection, training and personal relationships. Finally, in a situation not relevant here, a Pennsylvania court has "parens patriae" jurisdiction when a child is abandoned, abused or dependent. See, generally, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5344; Rohrer v. Rohrer, 345 Pa. Super. 469, 476, 498 A.2d 919 (1985); Warman v. Warman, 294 Pa. Super. 285, 293, 439 A.2d 1203 (1982).

Moreover, the Act empowers a court to refrain from asserting jurisdiction, even when otherwise properly held, if the party seeking custody has improperly brought the child to Pennsylvania from another state, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5349, Commonwealth ex rel. Zaubi v. Zaubi, 492 Pa. 183, 423 A.2d 333 (1980). A court may also decline jurisdiction when it finds that Pennsylvania is an inconvenient forum and another state is a more convenient forum, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5348, Commonwealth ex rel. Octaviano v. Dombrowski, 290 Pa. Super. 322, 326, 434 A.2d 774 (1981). The Pennsylvania version of the Act also includes a provision which allocates jurisdiction between and among courts of common pleas in the same manner in which the Act itself confers jurisdiction between and among courts of different states, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5364.

II.

The parties to this appeal were divorced by decree entered in Lackawanna County in June, 1984. When the divorce action began, the Lackawanna court ordered that the mother ...


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