Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Superior Court 8/27/08 - B.T.W., ON BEHALF OF T.L., A MINOR v. P.J.L.

No. 1337 MDA 2007 2008 PA Super 199 Atlantic: n/a Filed: 8/27/2008
Appeal from the Order entered June 28, 2007 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County Civil No. 2007-40075
Opinion by: KELLY, J.
Concurring and Dissenting Opinion by: BOWES, J.
This is an appeal from an order entered pursuant to the Protection from Abuse Act (PFA), 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 6101-17, precluding any contact between Appellant/stepmother and her stepdaughter, T.L., for a period of three years. We affirm, finding that the trial court’s jurisdiction over Appellant, a resident of Maryland, and over the subject matter of the action is conferred by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 5401-5482, despite commission of the abusive acts in a forum other than Pennsylvania. We also find that Appellant’s conduct constituted abuse, not permissible corporal punishment for misbehavior.

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Appellant presents two issues on appeal, challenging both the trial court’s jurisdiction to hear Appellee’s petition, and the sufficiency of evidence of abuse to warrant entry of a PFA order. We note that “in a PFA action, we review the trial court’s legal conclusions for an error of law or an abuse of discretion.” Custer v. Cochran, 933 A.2d 1050, 1054-55 (Pa. Super. 2007).

The first claim presented rests on the assertion that although the trial court was possessed of personal jurisdiction over Appellant even as a nonresident through the medium of the custody order, subject matter jurisdiction was not conferred by that or any other means. In so doing she asserts that “the question is whether the trial court has jurisdiction to apply the statutory laws of Pennsylvania to these parties where the subject matter is not related to a custody issue, and where the alleged harm or injury occurred outside of Pennsylvania.” (Appellant’s Brief at 13). Appellant’s argument fails as the major premise of her syllogism is faulty.

As Appellant concedes, “[e]xclusive, continuing jurisdiction” over child custody matters is conferred by 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5422(a) on the court which has made an initial custody determination, and endures until the child’s connection with the Commonwealth is severed. Since Appellee, the partial custodian, resides in Pennsylvania, the nexus between T.L., Appellant, and the Commonwealth remains intact.

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