from the Order Entered March 15, 2019 In the Court of Common
Pleas of Delaware County Civil Division at No(s):
BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J.E., STABILE, J., and STEVENS [*] , P.J.E.
T.D. ("Mother"), appeals from the order entered in
the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, which granted the
petition of Appellee, M.H. ("Father"), to transfer
jurisdiction of this custody action to Delaware State court.
relevant facts and procedural history of this case are as
follows. Mother and Father are the biological parents of
S.H., a minor ("Child"). Father has resided in
Delaware since 1998. Mother moved to Delaware in 2006. Child
was born in 2011, and has resided with Mother since birth.
Mother moved to Pennsylvania in 2014, and then moved back to
Delaware on September 1, 2017. That same day, Mother
attempted to file a custody complaint in Delaware State
court, which declined to accept the pleading, because Child
and Mother had not resided in Delaware within the previous
six months. Mother filed a custody complaint in Pennsylvania,
in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, on September
19, 2017. The Delaware County Court of Common Pleas entered a
temporary custody order on October 27, 2017, awarding Mother
primary physical custody of Child and awarding Father partial
physical custody of Child every other weekend. On March 27,
2018, Father filed in the Delaware County Court of Common
Pleas a petition to transfer jurisdiction of the custody
action to the state of Delaware, pursuant to Section 5422(a)
of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
("UCCJEA"), 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 5401-5482. On
April 14, 2018, Mother moved with Child from the state of
Delaware to Chester, Pennsylvania.
August 8, 2018, the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas
granted Father's petition and transferred jurisdiction to
the state of Delaware. Mother timely filed a motion for
reconsideration on August 27, 2018, which the court granted
on August 28, 2018. On August 30, 2018, Father filed a
petition to modify custody in Delaware State court; the
Delaware State court subsequently stayed Father's
petition at Mother's request, pending resolution of the
jurisdictional dispute in the Delaware County Court of Common
January 7, 2019, the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas
conducted a hearing on Mother's reconsideration motion
with testimony from Father, Child's paternal grandmother,
and Mother. On March 15, 2019, the Pennsylvania court again
granted Father's petition and transferred jurisdiction to
Delaware State court. In its March 2019 opinion, the trial
court purportedly relied upon this Court's decision in
S.K.C. v. J.L.C., 94 A.3d 402 (Pa.Super. 2014) to
examine the parties' and Child's circumstances under
Section 5422 as of the date Father filed his petition to
transfer jurisdiction, March 27, 2018. The trial court
determined that, as of March 27, 2018, the parties and Child
had lived in Delaware State for over six months and, as of
that date, Child had more significant connections with
Delaware than Pennsylvania.
April 12, 2019, Mother timely filed a notice of appeal and a
contemporaneous concise statement of errors complained of on
appeal per Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i).
raises two issues for our review:
WHETHER THE PENNSYLVANIA TRIAL COURT ERRED AS A MATTER OF LAW
IN DETERMINING THAT IT LACKED SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
OVER THE INSTANT CUSTODY MATTER BECAUSE ITS DETERMINATION
UNDER 23 PA.C.S.A. § 5422 DID NOT RELY UPON THE FACTUAL
CIRCUMSTANCES AS THEY EXISTED WHEN THE
MODIFICATION PETITION WAS FILED, BUT INSTEAD RELIED UPON
FACTUAL CIRCUMSTANCES AT THE TIME THE MOTION TO TRANSFER
JURISDICTION WAS FILED?
IF THE PENNSYLVANIA TRIAL COURT IN FACT LACKED JURISDICTION
OVER THE INSTANT CUSTODY MATTER AS OF THE TIME THE MOTION TO
TRANSFER JURISDICTION WAS FILED, DID IT THEREFORE LACK THE
POWER TO DIRECT THE PARTIES TO PURSUE ALL FUTURE LITIGATION
IN THE CUSTODY MATTER IN THE STATE OF DELAWARE?
(Mother's Brief at 4).
issues combined, Mother argues the trial court incorrectly
viewed the parties' and Child's circumstances as of
March 27, 2018, the date Father filed in the Delaware County
Court of Common Pleas a petition to transfer jurisdiction, to
determine whether the court retained exclusive, continuing
jurisdiction over this custody action under Section 5422.
Mother asserts, pursuant to S.K.C., supra, the trial
court should have examined the factual circumstances as they
existed when Father filed a petition to modify jurisdiction
in Delaware State court, August 30, 2018. Mother submits, as
of August 30, 2018, she and Child resided in Pennsylvania and
Child had numerous significant connections to Pennsylvania.
Mother also argues that if the Delaware County Court of
Common Pleas no longer had exclusive, continuing jurisdiction
over this custody dispute as of March 27, 2018, the date
Father filed his petition to transfer jurisdiction, then the
Delaware County Court of Common Pleas lacked jurisdiction to
rule on Father's transfer petition. Mother concludes this
Court should reverse the order of the Delaware County Court
of Common Pleas, transferring jurisdiction to the state of
Delaware, and dismiss Father's petition to transfer as
moot. We agree relief is due.
purpose of the UCCJEA is to avoid jurisdictional competition,
promote cooperation between courts, deter the abduction of
children, avoid relitigating custody decisions of other
states, and facilitate the enforcement of custody orders of
other states." A.L.-S. v. B.S., 117 A.3d 352,
356 (Pa.Super. 2015). "One of the main purposes of the
UCCJEA was to clarify the exclusive, continuing jurisdiction
for the state that entered the child custody decree."
Rennie v. Rosenthol, 995 A.2d 1217, 1220 (Pa.Super.
2010). The UCCJEA "is designed to eliminate a rush to
the courthouse to determine jurisdiction."
Bouzos-Reilly v. Reilly, 980 A.2d 643, 645
5402 of the UCCJEA defines several terms relevant to a
discussion of the operative statutory provisions as follows:
§ 5402. Definitions
* * *
"Child custody proceeding." A
proceeding in which legal custody, physical custody or
visitation with respect to a child is an issue. The term
includes a proceeding for divorce, separation, neglect,
abuse, dependency, guardianship, paternity, termination of
parental rights and protection from ...