The Legal Intelligencer: Sua Sponte Transfer of Child Custody Jurisdiction Affirmed

June 20, 2024

In an article published in The Legal Intelligencer on June 18, 2024, Partner and Co-Chair of the family law group, Michael Bertin, examines jurisdiction in child custody cases.  In Pennsylvania, jurisdiction, in child custody cases, is governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Under the UCCJEA, a trial court is vested with initial jurisdiction in a child custody matter where:

“Pennsylvania is the home state of child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding or was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from Pennsylvania but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in Pennsylvania …” 

In his article, titled “Sua Sponte Transfer of Child Custody Jurisdiction Affirmed,” Michael examines the case of Boback v. Pershing, 311 A.3d 1126 (Pa. Super. 2024), where the Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed the issue of exclusive continuing jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The case involved a child whose parents were never married, with paternal grandparents playing a significant role in her upbringing due to the father’s young age, military assignments, and the mother’s work schedule. Initially, the court granted shared legal custody to the parents, primary physical custody to the father, and partial custody to the mother and paternal grandparents. Later, the paternal grandparents’ custodial time was limited to supervised visits.

In 2023, the paternal grandparents sought primary physical custody. By this time, the father and child lived in Kentucky, the mother in Indiana, and the grandparents in Pennsylvania. The trial court questioned its jurisdiction under the UCCJEA since neither the parents nor the child resided in Pennsylvania. It ruled that Pennsylvania no longer had exclusive, continuing jurisdiction, transferring the case to Kentucky.

Read the full article here