from the Decree Entered March 25, 2019 In the Court of Common
Pleas of Lehigh County Civil Division at No(s): 2017-FC-1286
BEFORE: BOWES, J., SHOGAN, J. and STRASSBURGER, J.
Pankoe (Husband) pro se appeals from the March 25,
2019 divorce decree entered in the Lehigh County Court of
Common Pleas. Upon review, we affirm.
and Laura Pankoe (Wife) were married on October 18, 2009, in
Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, and are the parents to two minor
children. On September 27, 2017, Wife filed a complaint for
divorce (the Complaint), which included a count for equitable
distribution. Complaint, 9/27/2017. In the Complaint, Wife
averred the parties separated on November 8, 2016, and had
been living apart since that date. Id. at 2
(unnumbered). Additionally, Wife asserted that the marriage
was irretrievably broken. Id. Thereafter, Husband
was served a copy of the Complaint, and he subsequently filed
an answer. Therein, Husband requested the trial court dismiss
the Complaint, asserting the marriage was "not
irretrievabl[y] broken nor ha[d] the parties lived separate
and apart for one year since the filling of the 
Complaint." Answer to Complaint, 3/1/2018, at 2
November 27, 2018, a master's hearing was held before
John Roberts, III, Esquire (Master). Both parties testified
at the hearing. As summarized by the trial court:
[Wife] testified that she believed her marriage to [Husband]
is irretrievably broken because:
[Husband] is emotionally and verbally abusive and that's
not going to change. He is narcissistic. We tried marriage
counseling. And it's clear to me that I'm not going
to get through to him.
And his personality is the way it is. And I'm not going
to keep putting myself in the situation I've been in.
[Wife] testified that she had "no doubt whatsoever"
that she wanted a divorce. [Wife] further testified that she
felt [Husband] was emotionally, verbally, and sexually
abusive during the marriage. [Wife] also testified that
[Husband] did not acknowledge her opinions and feelings
during the marriage. [Wife] further testified that based on
her religious beliefs, she believed a divorce was warranted.
Additionally, [Wife] testified that she is not pursuing any
economic claims against [Husband]. [Wife] testified that she
did not have an affair during the marriage.
[Husband] testified extensively about his religious beliefs
and his belief that divorce is not appropriate for the
parties. [Husband] testified that he did not believe the
parties had "biblical grounds for divorce or infidelity
or an unbelieving spouse walk away." [Husband] further
argued that he and [Wife] entered into a Christian marriage
contract, which Pennsylvania cannot invalidate. [Husband]
argued that Pennsylvania recognizes that marriage is a
religious contract and that Pennsylvania gives deference to
the religious aspects of marriage contracts. [Husband]
contends that the legislature does not have the authority to
regulate marriage and divorce, especially no-fault divorce,
because there is no compelling state interest.
[Husband] further testified that his "firmly held
religious beliefs prevented [him] from starting a family
under a marital contract that includes an exit plan option of
unilateral no-fault divorce." [Husband] also argued that
Pennsylvania courts do not have jurisdiction over the
Christian marriage contract between him and [Wife] and that
[23 Pa.C.S. §] 3301(d)[(section 3301(d)) fosters excessive
governmental entanglement with the free exercise of religion.
[Husband] further testified that he believed his church
council needs to determine if there is sufficient
estrangement between the parties, and issue some type of
edict stating that the marriage is beyond repair.
At the conclusion of [Husband's] testimony, [Wife] stated
that the statements made by [Husband] were "a huge
example of abuse." [Wife] testified that [Husband's]
promises to change did not sway her and that she still wants
Court's Memorandum Opinion, 3/25/2019, at 3-5 (citations
omitted). On December 6, 2018, the Master filed a report,
recommending the trial court "grant the divorce
expeditiously." Id. at 2.
On December 24, 2018, [Husband] filed exceptions to the
[Master's report]. On December 28, 2018, [Husband] filed
a statement "challenging subject matter jurisdiction
amended." On January 7, 2019, [Husband] filed a notice
of challenging constitutionality to Attorney General. On
January 18, 2019, [Husband] filed a motion for summary
judgment and brief in support. On February 15, 2019, [Wife]
filed a brief contra to [Husband's] motion for
On February 22, 2019, [Husband] filed a reply brief to
[Wife's] brief opposing motion for summary judgment. On
February 27, 2019, th[e trial c]ourt held argument on the
exceptions to the [Master's ...