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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 06-1674



Proposed Changes to Family Law Rules; No. 06 CV 3699

[36 Pa.B. 4719]
[Saturday, August 26, 2006]


   And Now, this 31st day of July, 2006, Proposed Changes/Additions to Civil Division Rules Actions in Divorce or For Annulment of Marriage are Hereby Adopted and effective September 1, 2006.

By the Court

President Judge


Rule 1920.3. Commencement of Action.

   (c)  Related Pleadings

   All pleadings and legal papers filed pursuant to the Divorce Code or by separate petition relating to any matter involving the same family shall be filed with the Clerk of Judicial Records and docketed to the same docket number pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1931.

Rule 1920.33

   (b)  Pre-Hearing Statement Deadline

   Pre-trial Statements shall be filed by both parties no later than 20 days prior to the Hearing before the Court. The deadline for filing Pre-Trial Statements can be modified by written agreement between the parties or by the Court upon good cause shown.

Rule 1920.51 Pre-Trial Conference. Appointment of Master.

   (d)  Appointment of Master/Master's Fees.

   (i)  For Appointment of a Master, counsel shall present the Order and Motion for Appointment of Master in Motion Court. Counsel shall then present the executed Order to the Court Administrator who shall thereafter appoint a Master.

   (ii)  In all actions for which appointment of a Master is sought, the party seeking appointment shall pay the sum of Seven Hundred and Fifty ($750.00) Dollars at the time of the appointment directly to the appointed Master and serve the Master with a copy of the Order and Motion for Appointment of Master. The Master shall not commence action on the case until payment is received. The Master shall be required to deposit the fee into his or her escrow account until earned and billed. Master's fees shall be billed at a rate of $125.00 per hour. The Master may require additional deposits of funds from either or both parties, if necessary. The Master may enter such order concerning the allocation of Master's fees and related costs as may appear just and reasonable. Whenever the amount required to be deposited is exhausted before the filing of the Master's Report and Recommendations, proceedings may be stayed until the amount so directed shall be deposited.

   (iii)  Upon completion of the case, the Master shall send a final bill and upon payment in full, the Master shall file a Certificate that all Master's fees have been paid. In any case in which a Master is appointed, no Decree in Divorce shall be entered absent a Master's Certificate that all Master's fees have been paid.

   (e)  Divorce Master; Duties.

   Upon appointment, the Master shall schedule a preliminary hearing conference or hearing if a claim for alimony pendente lite is presented. The Master shall give written notice to the parties through their counsel or directly if they are unrepresented.

   (i)  Both parties and their counsel shall attend any preliminary hearing conference or hearing.

   (ii)  The parties, with the aid of their counsel and the appropriate assistance of the Master, should make a good faith effort to resolve contested matters, including the marital property division, and shall determine those items which are contested and upon which testimony shall be taken at a scheduled hearing.

   (iii)  At the close of the preliminary hearing conference, the Master shall establish the time and place for a formal hearing. The Master shall give written notice of the hearing to the parties through their counsel or directly if they are unrepresented, by mail within ten (10) days. The party who has filed for appointment of the Master shall engage a stenographer for transcription of the hearing.

   (iv)  The Master shall file a report consistent with Pa.R.C.P. 1920.54.

   (f)  Master's Duty to Determine Jurisdiction.

   Before fixing the time and place for the hearing, the Master shall examine the pleadings to determine the formal sufficiency and regularity of the proceeding, including the matter of jurisdiction. If, in the opinion of the Master, the proceeding is defective in any particular manner, he or she shall report any defects to the Court with appropriate notice to the parties through their counsel or directly if they are unrepresented, within twenty (20) days from his or her appointment and shall suspend further action until the defect is cured. If the defect is not cured within a reasonable period of time, the Master shall apply to the Court for instructions. When the Master is satisfied as to the formal sufficiency and regularity of the proceedings, including jurisdiction, or when directed by the Court to proceed, he or she shall thereafter promptly fix the time and place of taking testimony, if any.

Rule 1920.62. Proceedings for Indigent Parties.

   A party in a divorce action who has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis shall follow all available legal procedures to secure payment of costs by the opposing party unless the opposing party has also been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 06-1674. Filed for public inspection August 25, 2006, 9:00 a.m.]

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