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MARGARET M. ROSS v. JACK N. ROSS (12/22/86)

filed: December 22, 1986.

MARGARET M. ROSS
v.
JACK N. ROSS, APPELLANT



Appeal from the judgment entered August 2, 1985 in the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Civil Division, at No. 172 of 1979-10.

COUNSEL

James R. Leonard, Jr., Lancaster, for appellant.

Stephen L. Needles, Richboro, for appellee.

Beck, Popovich and Hoffman, JJ.

Author: Beck

[ 359 Pa. Super. Page 358]

This is an appeal from an order dated May 1, 1985*fn1 by the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas reinstating

[ 359 Pa. Super. Page 359]

    appellant-father's support arrearages. The order was entered in response to a Motion to Reinstate Arrears filed on April 30, 1985 by a Domestic Relations Officer representing appellee-mother. The record reveals that the order was entered without notice to the father who, therefore, had no opportunity to respond to the reasons set forth in the motion in support of reinstatement of arrears. We hold that the entry of this ex parte order was improper and reverse.

A review of the complicated procedural history of this appeal is warranted. However, because the interrelationship of the statutes and rules governing support matters is somewhat complex and because all of the support statutes and rules have been amended and/or reenacted or recodified in recent years, a review of the facts would be meaningless without first providing a legal context.

Support matters are generally governed by the Civil Procedural Support Law, 42 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. §§ 6701 -- 13 (1982), amended by and reenacted at 23 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. §§ 4301-53 (Supp.1986) (the "Support Law"). The Support Law generally governs actions for support where the interstate enforcement of a support obligation is not implicated.

The procedure to be followed in an action under the Support Law is set forth in the Rules of Civil Procedure concerning Actions for Support (the "Support Rules"). Pa.R.C.P. 1910.1-.31 (1986). The basic form of these rules was originally promulgated in 1981, although certain of the rules were amended or rescinded in 1985 and 1986. See, e.g., Pa.R.C.P. 1910.2, 1910.6(b). When promulgated in

[ 359 Pa. Super. Page 3601981]

, the Support Rules specifically provided that they would "govern all civil actions or proceedings brought in the court of common pleas to enforce a duty of support." Pa.R.C.P. 1910.1(a). As Rule 1910.31 and the Note to Rule 1910.1 indicate, the rules suspend and supercede certain of the procedural provisions of the Support Law. Many of the procedural provisions in the prior Support Law have been omitted in the 1986 Support Law because the Support Rules provide the procedural requirements. Act 1982, Dec. 20, P.L. 1409, No. 326, art. II; 23 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. §§ 4341-2.

In addition to the foregoing, Pennsylvania has enacted the Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, 42 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. §§ 6741 -- 80 (1982), amended by and reenacted at 23 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. §§ 4501-40 (Supp.1986) ("RURESA"). RURESA generally governs support matters where one of the parties resides outside the Commonwealth and enables a Pennsylvania resident to obtain enforcement of a support obligation through proceedings in another state. The Support Rules specifically do not govern the procedure to be followed under the interstate reciprocal provisions of RURESA. Pa.R.C.P. 1910.1(b)(1)(a).

As to intra state or inter county support obligations, there are three relevant enactments, RURESA, the Support Law and the Support Rules. RURESA contains provisions relating to certain intra state matters arising where the parties are in different counties within Pennsylvania. 42 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 6773, amended by and reenacted at 23 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 4533. The Support Law in Sections 6712 and 6713 also provide for the situation where the parties reside in different counties. 42 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. §§ 6712-13, amended by and reenacted at 23 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 4352. The Support Rules do not govern these provisions.

The Support Rules provide yet another procedural route. The introductory Explanatory Note to the Support Rules as they were originally enacted in 1981 explained that the rules provide a third alternative procedure for intrastate support matters. See also Note to Pa.R.C.P. 1910.1(a).

[ 359 Pa. Super. Page 361]

The Rules facilitate the enforcement of a support obligation where the obligee and the obligor are in different counties by providing liberalized venue and service of process requirements in such situations. Pa.R.C.P. 1910.2, 1910.6(b).*fn2

In the context of intrastate support obligations both the Support Law and RURESA require the transfer of a support matter to the proper jurisdictional forum where the parties are in the Commonwealth but are in different counties. Section 6773 of RURESA states that in such a situation, if the court of the county in which the petition for support is filed finds that the petition sets forth facts from which it may be determined that the obligor owes a duty of support and that a court of another county may obtain jurisdiction over the obligor or his ...


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