Appeal from the Order entered December 30, 1987 in the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Civil Division, No. 87 SU 0093-02D.
Timothy E. Kane, York, for appellant.
Jeffrey D. Lobach, York, for appellee.
Beck, Kelly and Hester, JJ.
[ 382 Pa. Super. Page 510]
In this opinion, we are called upon to determine whether an assertion of "marital domicile" by itself alleges sufficient minimum contacts, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Long-Arm Statute, to withstand a preliminary objection asserting the absence of in personam jurisdiction over a nonresident, nondomiciliary defendant in an action brought by a resident spouse concerning economic claims arising out of the marital relationship.
We find that although "marital domicile" may provide sufficient minimum contacts with Pennsylvania to permit exercise of in personam jurisdiction, the bare assertion of the legal conclusion that marital domicile existed in Pennsylvania without pleading further facts is not a sufficient factual predicate for the disposition of preliminary objections alleging the absence of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident, nondomiciliary defendant. The assertion of marital domicile is a conclusion of law which must be supported by specific facts. Moreover, while the fact of
[ 382 Pa. Super. Page 511]
former marital domicile within a forum is a highly relevant factor in determining whether long-arm jurisdiction is appropriate, it is not necessarily dispositive. For reasons which follow, we remand for further proceedings in the trial court upon the question of whether in personam jurisdiction could properly be exercised in this case.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Teann J. Scoggins ("appellant") and Jimmy D. Scoggins ("appellee") were married in York, Pennsylvania, on February 12, 1983. The parties separated, and appellee moved to Florida, where he has since established his domicile. Appellant continues to reside in York, Pennsylvania. The scant record before us does not reveal when the parties separated or whether they ever lived together outside of Pennsylvania. We take judicial notice of the fact that Florida requires a six month residency period before a petition in divorce may be filed.*fn1 Therefore, we note that appellee must have resided in Florida by at least June 18, 1986, as he filed a petition for divorce in Florida on November 18, 1986. Appellant was served with a copy of that action on December 1, 1986.
On January 9, 1987, appellant instituted her own divorce action against appellee in Pennsylvania. In her complaint for divorce, appellant asserted claims for equitable distribution, alimony, alimony pendente lite, counsel fees, expenses, and costs. Appellee was served with notice of appellant's complaint.
Appellee obtained an ex parte divorce decree in Florida on January 14, 1987.*fn2 On February 4, 1987, appellee
[ 382 Pa. Super. Page 512]
filed preliminary objections to appellant's divorce action alleging lack of subject matter jurisdiction, failure to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted and lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court refused to grant appellee's first two preliminary objections, based on its conclusion that appellant's complaint stated a cause of action for economic relief which could be resolved by a court in Pennsylvania. However, the trial court found that it could not exercise personal jurisdiction over appellee, a nonresident. The trial court explained that "the facts [of this case] may oblige the use of Pennsylvania law by a Court in deciding this case, but they are not sufficiently clear to allow this Court to fairly exercise personal due process jurisdiction over the . . . [appellee]." (Trial Ct. Op. at 8). (Emphasis added). This timely appeal follows.*fn3
Appellant raised the following issues for our consideration:
Whether the lower court erred in dismissing the action for lack of personal jurisdiction:
A. Does the situs of the marital domicile alone assure sufficient minimum contacts to satisfy the due process tests; and,
B. Did the lower court fail to follow established procedures by deciding the case on controverted facts alone and without taking additional evidence?
(Appellant's Brief at 3). Upon review of the parties' briefs, the record, the applicable statutory and constitutional authority and the relevant case law, we vacate the trial court's order and remand with instructions.
[ 382 Pa. Super. Page 513]
We shall address appellant's issues in the following manner. First, we shall consider the standard of review, as well as the general rules, which are applicable to cases that have been dismissed on preliminary objections due to lack of personal jurisdiction. Secondly, we shall examine the Pennsylvania Long-Arm Statute to determine which provision applies to cases such as the one sub judice. Thirdly, we shall consider what must be pled to meet, at least preliminarily, the minimum requirements of the applicable provision of the Pennsylvania ...