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[U] T.L.P. v. R.F.P

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 7, 2014

T.L.P., Appellee
v.
R.F.P., Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order entered May 17, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Domestic Relations, at No: 0C1000744.

BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., WECHT and MUSMANNO, JJ.

MEMORANDUM

MUSMANNO, J.

R.F.P. ("Father"), an attorney, filed the instant pro se appeal from the trial court's May 17, 2013 Custody Order ("the 2013 Custody Order), which modified a prior Custody Order. The prior Order implemented an agreement between Father and T.L.P. ("Mother), with regard to the shared custody of the parties' three children, R.P. (born in March 2005), S.P. (born in May 2006), and E.P. (born in June 2008) (collectively, "the Children"). The 2013 Custody Order granted Mother's Petition to Modify a prior Custody Order ("the 2011 Order"), but denied Mother's Petition to find Father in contempt of the prior order.[1] We affirm.

The trial court set forth the relevant history underlying the instant appeal as follows:

The present custody case was initiated on April 16, 2010, at which time Mother filed a [C]omplaint for primary physical and joint legal custody of [the Children] as part of her [D]ivorce [C]omplaint. On May 25, 2010, Mother withdrew her [D]ivorce [C]omplaint, which was resolved by a private agreement. Father then filed a [C]omplaint for primary physical and legal custody [of the Children] along with a [M]otion for [E]xpedited [R]elief on October 25, 2010. On October 29, 2010, the Honorable Nina Wright Padilla entered a temporary [O]rder by agreement awarding the parties shared physical and legal custody [of the Children].
On December 10, 2010, Mother again filed a [C]omplaint to [C]onfirm [C]ustody as part of her new [D]ivorce [C]omplaint…. A hearing was held[, ] on June 7, 2011[, ] on Father's [and Mother's respective custody complaints. On June 7, 2011, the trial court entered the 2011 Custody Order, as agreed to by the parties, ] granting the parties shared physical and legal custody [of the Children].
On October 22, 2012, Mother filed a [P]etition for [C]ontempt[, ] and[, ] on November 5, 2012, Mother filed a [M]otion for [E]xpedited [R]elief. The Honorable Holly Ford granted a Rule to Show Cause on Mother's [Motion] for [E]xpedited [R]elief on November 20, 2012. On December 4, 2012, Father filed his [A]nswer to Mother's contempt [P]etition. Mother then filed a [P]etition to [M]odify [the June 7, 2011 custody Order] on December 12, 2012. On December 27, 2012, Father filed an [A]swer to Mother's [P]etition for [E]xpedited [R]elief. After a hearing on January 30, 2013, Mother's [P]etition for [E]xpedited [R]elief was denied[, ] and this [c]ourt ruled that the [2011 Custody Order] was to remain in effect.

Trial Court Opinion, 6/28/13, at 1-2.

The trial court conducted a hearing on the parties' respective Custody Complaints on May 17, 2013. At the close of that hearing, the parties reached an agreed-upon resolution of the dispute. As a result, the trial court entered the 2013 Custody Order, which continued the parties' shared physical and legal custody of the Children. The 2013 Custody Order included a detailed holiday custody schedule, and addressed counseling matters, communication between the parties, and their attendance at extracurricular events. The 2013 Custody Order denied Mother's Petition for Contempt, but ordered Father to pay $500 in counsel fees to Mother's attorney.

Father timely filed a Notice of Appeal, along with a Concise Statement of Errors Complained of on Appeal. On appeal, Father raises the following issues for our review:

I. Whether the court below denied [F]ather due process by refusing to give him a full an[d] fair hearing?
[II.] Whether the court erred by granting relief on a claim [Mother] raised for the first time at the bar of the court[, which] was not raised in any of her three petitions, thus subjecting [F]ather to trial by ambush and denying him due process?
[III.] Whether the court erred by sua sponte modifying a term of the negotiated custody agreement where the record demonstrated that such modification would be antithetical to the best interest[s] of the [C]hildren?
[IV.] Whether the custody court erred by impermissibly relying on its own personal beliefs with respect to parental communication and ignored the law requiring only a "minimum of communication" between custodial parties by requiring excessive contact [between] the parties ...

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