Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation

Accommodating the Minor Children and Easing Any Burden Created by the Litigation are the Primary Factors Considered by the Court Regarding Venue for Child Support and Child Custody Litigation

In the family law, child custody litigation case of Coblentz v. Coblentz, PICS Case No. 14-1380 (C.P. Lawrence, Aug. 22, 2014), the Honorable John W. Hodge granted the plaintiff’s petition to transfer venue in this child custody and child support matter.

Plaintiff mother and defendant father are the natural parents of two minors. Since the parties’ separation, mother has been the primary caregiver but father has enjoyed partial custody and extensive summer visitation. Mother presently resides with the children in Allegheny County, Pa. Father remains in Lawrence County, Pa.

In her petition to transfer venue to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, mother averred that the minor children have lived with her in Allegheny County since August 2007. Mother contended that the children have primarily grown up in Allegheny County and have established a permanency and lifestyle in that county. Mother believes these factors strongly support a transfer of these proceedings.

Father opposes mother’s request, and requests the court find that the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas is a convenient forum to litigate the instant case.

The eight factors that a court must consider when entertaining as issue regarding venue are set forth at 23 Pa.C.S.A.  5427 (b). Here, the court turned its analysis on the factors applicable to the circumstances of this case.

The children have resided in Allegheny County with mother for more than seven years, which equates to more than half of their adolescent lives. This factor clearly favored a transfer in venue. The distance between Lawrence and Allegheny counties is approximately 60 miles. Although father attempted to minimalize this issue, the court found it would be difficult for mother to continuously travel to Lawrence County to participate in custody proceedings, given the fact that she is the primary custodian. Additionally, the distance places a burden on the children. The court concluded this factor favors a transfer in venue.

The parties’ financial circumstances are each adversely affected by this court’s ultimate determination regarding venue but the court lacked sufficient testimony to conclude that either party would be at a severe financial disadvantage given their current circumstances. Therefore, this factor did not affect the court’s determination.

All the testimony and evidence regarding the children, their academics, their extracurricular activities and their medical records are based in Allegheny County.

Alternatively, this case been heard in Lawrence County, and the court has always attempted to accommodate the parties. The court has maintained exclusive jurisdiction over this case since its conception. The court is extremely familiar with the parties, the minor children and the underlying issues between the parties. It has conducted several hearings and a trial, and issued a custody order following hearings on competing motions to modify custody. A guardian ad litem was also appointed for the children this past year. The same statutory requirements and fundamental rules of civil procedure apply, as both courts are within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The court concludes Lawrence County is no longer a convenient forum to litigate the instant case. The court places significant weight on accommodating the children, and easing any burden created by the ongoing litigation. The court also thoroughly considered the fact that the majority of the evidence is more suitably presented within the Courts of Allegheny County.

Case transferred to Allegheny County.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 37 PLW 859 (September 9, 2014)

Filed Under: Family Law; Child Custody; Motion to Transfer Venue of Child Custody and Child Support Matter

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