Pennsylvania Abuse of Process Lawsuit Arising out of Contentious Custody Litigation Dismissed

December 31, 2008 – Cooley & Handy recently secured the dismissal of a frivolous “abuse of process” lawsuit filed against one of its clients, a mother, by her ex-husband and the father of her children. The lawsuit arouse out of contentious and on-going custody litigation pending in Bucks County. Cooley & Handy also represented the mother in the custody litigation.

In the underlying custody litigation, Cooley & Handy was able to secure the mother a series of victories, that included court orders and agreements, in which mother was awarded additional custody time with her children. At every stage of the custody litigation, father vigorously opposed mother’s attempts to secure additional custody time with her children.

Apparently frustrated by mother’s and Cooley & Handy’s success in the custody litigation, father resorted to filing a frivolous civil lawsuit against Mother, claiming that mother had abused the custody litigation process by forcing him to make what he viewed as “unwarranted custody concession.”

In a memorandum opinion issued on December 31, 2008 the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, the Hon. Theodore Fritch, Jr., granted mother’s preliminary objections to father’s civil complaint and dismissed the complaint in its entirety with prejudice. Accepting Cooley & Handy’s arguments, the court found that father could not state a claim for abuse of process based on the custody petitions that mother had filed, particularly where mother was successful on her petitions and had obtained additional time with her children. Further, in his well-reasoned decision, Judge Fritch also found that it would be extremely unlikely that a litigant could ever state at claim for abuse of process based on a parent’s attempt to obtain custody of his or her child. According to the court, “to do so would discourage parents from making attempts to communicate or reconcile with their children, a result [the courts] will not support,” and that permitting such claims to proceed would be “contrary to public policy.”

As a result of Cooley & Handy’s efforts, parents can continue to feel secure in their right to seek custody of their children without the threat of collateral litigation aimed at exhausting their emotional and financial wherewithal.