Superior Court Finds No Jurisdiction in Interstate Case (UCCJEA)
One of the most-respected judges to sit in Family Division here in Allegheny County, Hon. Eugene B. Strassburger, Jr., recently ascended to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. His first published opinion in a Family Division matter was released this month, demonstrating remarkable judicial restraint. In BJD v. DLC, 2011 Pa.Super. 74 (April 11, 2011), Judge Strassburger considered a custody case in which both parents and their child had moved away from Pennsylvania in 2009. The father, who won custody in Blair County in 2009, initially moved to the Mariana Islands to pursue a new relationship. He was granted primary physical custody and the right to relocate with the child. The child’s mother moved to Oklahoma, where she has resided ever since.
Father’s new romance quickly faded, and before long, he was moving to Canada for the birth of a child conceived of his short-term relationship. After the birth, he decided to return to the state of Maryland to reside with his parents, his child in tow. Meanwhile the Mother asked the Blair County court to transfer jurisdiction to Oklahoma, and Father counterclaimed for relocation to Maryland. Blair County decided to transfer the case to Oklahoma as the most “stable” jurisdiction.
In a published decision, Judge Strassburger reversed the transfer order and dismissed the case entirely, holding that Pennsylvania had no jurisdiction to act. The Superior Court dismissed the action without determining which state had jurisdiction over custody modification.
It would have been tempting to attempt to decide which state had custody jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, but Judge Strassburger declined to do so. He left the parties and their respective home forums to make those decisions.