Monday, May 17, 2010

custody - jurisdiction - continuing - UCCJEA - significant connection

Rennie v. Rosenthal - Superior Court - May 17, 2010

Pennsylvania courts, which entered the initial custody order, continue to have jurisdiction under 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5422(a)(1) of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”), even where mother and child have lived primarily in another state for the past 6 years, since Pennsylvania continues to have a "significant connection" with the child or one parent or person acting as a parent.

Under the plain meaning of section 5422(a)(1), a court that makes an initial custody determination retains exclusive, continuing jurisdiction until neither the child nor the child and one parent or a person acting as a parent have a significant connection with Pennsylvania and substantial evidence concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships is no longer available here. The use of the term “and” requires that exclusive jurisdiction continues in Pennsylvania until both a significant connection to Pennsylvania and the requisite substantial evidence are lacking. In other words, Pennsylvania will retain jurisdiction as long as a significant connection with Pennsylvania exists or substantial evidence is present.

Based upon the evidence, Child and Father have a significant connection to Pennsylvania, which thus retains jurisdiction over the case. As indicated in clear language in the statute, a “significant connection” will be found where one parent resides and exercises parenting time in the state and maintains a meaningful relationship with the child. The statute does not specify that courts must determine that the parent with primary custody of a child has a significant connection with the state to retain jurisdiction. Here, as noted above, the evidence established that Father lives in the Philadelphia area and he and Child have a significant connection to Pennsylvania.