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[U] T.C.S. v. A.S.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 6, 2014

T.C.S. Appellant
v.
A.S. Appellee

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order Entered October 14, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County Civil Division at No(s): 2013-20150

BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., OTT, J., and MUSMANNO, J.

MEMORANDUM

GANTMAN, P.J.

Appellant, T.C.S. ("Father") appeals from the order entered in the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas, which sustained the preliminary objection of Appellee, A.S. ("Mother"), to the trial court's jurisdiction to determine custody as to one of the parties' two minor children. We affirm.

The relevant facts and procedural history of this appeal are as follows. Mother and Father are the parents of two minor children. Their first child, B.S., was born in Pennsylvania in 2007, and the parties married in 2008. In December 2012, when Mother was approximately three months' pregnant with the parties' second child, E.S., Father asked for a divorce. Shortly thereafter, Mother moved from Pennsylvania to her parents' home in California, taking B.S. with her. On February 28, 2013, Father filed a complaint for custody of B.S. On May 9, 2013, the trial court entered a temporary custody order for shared legal custody, primary physical custody to Mother, partial physical custody to Father, and physical custody of B.S. from June 25, 2013 to August 27, 2013, to Father.[1]

In June 2013, the parties' second child, E.S., was born in California. Father then filed an amended complaint in the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas, for physical and legal custody of E.S. in addition to B.S. Mother filed preliminary objections, asserting the trial court lacked jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act to make a custody determination with respect to E.S. Father asserted the trial court has and should exercise jurisdiction under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The trial court sustained Mother's preliminary objections on October 21, 2013, dismissed Father's amended custody complaint, reinstated the original custody complaint solely as to B.S., and retained jurisdiction over that complaint.

Father timely filed a notice of appeal on October 28, 2013, but failed to file a contemporaneous statement of errors complained of on appeal, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) and (b). On October 30, 2013, Father filed his Rule 1925 statement.

On appeal, Father presents the following issue for our review:

WHETHER [THE] TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT [SUSTAINED] [MOTHER'S] PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS AND DISMISSED [FATHER'S] AMENDED COMPLAINT?

(Father's Brief at 4).

In Father's sole issue, he argues Pennsylvania is a more convenient forum to determine custody with respect to both children, because the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas has already commenced a custody action with respect to B.S.; the court's failure to exercise jurisdiction over E.S. goes against the interests of justice. Specifically, Father contends Lebanon County is the more appropriate forum, as contrasted with California, because of the existing custody action regarding B.S. Father asserts the idea of simultaneous proceedings in two courts goes against the interest of substantial justice. (Father's Brief at 12). He twice argues that Mother drafted "Preliminary Objects" solely to evade the interests of justice and to frustrate Father's ability to contact B.S. and E.S. Father avers that both parties agree custody should be determined by a single court but submits Lebanon County is the more logically convenient forum. Father concludes that this Court should remand for further review. We cannot agree.

This custody matter implicates jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA"). See 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5401-5482. Our standard of review for decisions regarding application of the UCCJEA jurisdictional criteria is as follows:

A court's decision to exercise or decline jurisdiction [per the UCCJEA] is subject to an abuse of discretion standard of review and will not be disturbed absent an abuse of that discretion. Under Pennsylvania law, an abuse of discretion occurs when the court has overridden or misapplied the law, when its judgment is manifestly unreasonable, or when there is insufficient evidence of record to support the court's findings. An abuse of discretion requires ...

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