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Court Rule

N1920.51 Pre-Trial Conference. Appointment of...

(a) Motion for Appointment of Master.
When any contested claims under the Divorce Code are at issue pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 1920.51 and 1920.52, either party may file a motion for the appointment of a master on the form prescribed by Rule N1920.74 with the Motion Judge or the Court Administrator.
(b) Masters.
(1) The Court shall maintain a list of Regular Masters composed of members of the Bar of this Court who are willing to serve and are appointed by the Court to perform the duties set forth in sub paragraph (c).
(2) The Court shall appoint permanent salaried masters who shall not engage in any private domestic relations matters and who shall serve at the pleasure of the Court. In any action involving claims for alimony, counsel fees and expenses, and the determination and distribution of marital property, the permanent masters shall conduct conferences and hearings, prepare reports and make recommendations to the Court in cases referred to them.
(c) Appointment of Master.
In any action in which the only claim at issue is the right to a divorce pursuant to Section 3301(a) or (b), a contested claim under Section 3301(d), or the right to an annulment pursuant to Sections 3304 and 3305 of the Divorce Code, the Court shall appoint a Regular Master. A Regular Master shall have jurisdiction for termination of marital status only.
(d) Vital Statistics Form; Military Service.
The party filing the motion for the appointment of a master shall file therewith the completed form of report required by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, and the affidavit of non military service under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act of 1940, if required.
(e) Master's Fees.
The Master shall be paid compensation as follows:
(1) In all actions referred to a Regular Master pursuant to N1920.51(c)(1), the master shall be paid a fee of One Hundred Fifty ($150.00) Dollars. The sum of Two Hundred Fifty ($250.00) Dollars shall be deposited with the Clerk of Courts Civil by the moving party before the appointment of a Regular Master is made, to be applied as compensation for the master, stenographic transcripts and other costs.
(2) In all actions referred to a permanent master pursuant to N1920.51(c)(2), the sum of Seven Hundred Fifty ($750.00) Dollars shall be paid to the Clerk of the Courts Civil by the moving party at the time of appointment of a permanent master. Unless the action requires protracted hearings, no additional fee shall be payable. The fees shall be regarded as costs of the case and upon final disposition, the master may enter such order concerning the allocation of costs as may appear just and reasonable.
(3) In the absence of an agreement between the parties, either party or the master may file a petition and rule for the deposit of security or additional security for master's and/or stenographer's fees or for the allowance of additional compensation. The petition and rule is to be referred to the appointing judge for determination. Whenever the amount required to be deposited shall be exhausted before the filing of the master's report, proceedings may be stayed until the amount so directed shall be deposited.

(f) Regular Master; Duties.
A Regular Master shall conduct a hearing and file a report, together with his recommendation, in accordance with the applicable provisions of this rule.

(g) Permanent Master; Duties.
Upon appointment, the master, after giving the parties and/or counsel not less than ten (10) days written notice, shall schedule a preliminary hearing conference or hearing.
(1) Both parties and their counsel shall attend any conference or hearing.
(2) 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.
(3) At the close of the conference, the master shall establish the time and place for the formal hearing and shall give ten (10) days notice thereof by mail to counsel. If either party does not have counsel, then the ten (10) day notice shall be mailed directly to that party.
(4) The master shall file a report consistent with Pa.R.C.P. 1920.53 and 1920.54.

(h) Notes of Testimony.
(1) The stenographic recording of the testimony and the transcription thereof may be waived by the parties. If the parties waive stenographic recording, the testimony shall be electronically recorded.
(2) If a party requests a transcript, the cost shall be the amount fixed by Court Rule, which cost may be assessed against either or both parties as part of the Master's Recommendation or Report. One half (½) of the estimated cost shall be paid when the transcript is ordered.
(3) If a party desires a copy of the transcript, written notice must be given to the Master's office within ten (10) days of the filing of the exceptions.

(i) Master's Duty to Determine Jurisdiction.
Before fixing the time and place for taking of testimony, if any, 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, he shall report any defects to the Court with appropriate notice to counsel and any unrepresented party within twenty (20) days from his 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 proceeding, including jurisdiction, or when directed by the Court to proceed, he shall thereafter promptly fix the time and place of taking testimony, if any.
(j) Notice of Hearing.
Ten (10) days' written notice of the time and place of the taking of testimony shall be given to both counsel or, in the absence of counsel, to any unrepresented party.

(k) Prepared Record in Uncontested Cases.
Prior to the hearing in uncontested cases in divorce or annulment, the attorney for the plaintiff may prepare "Plaintiff's Record of Testimony", which shall be in writing, bearing the caption of the case, and shall include the following:
(1) affidavit re vital statistics;
(2) plaintiff's testimony, in question and answer or narrative form, signed and verified by plaintiff;
(3) any exhibits which shall have been specifically identified in the plaintiff's evidence; and
(4) the testimony of each of plaintiff's witnesses, in question and answer or narrative form, signed and verified by the witness.

(l) Uncontested Hearings Using Prepared Record of Testimony.
In cases using the Plaintiff's Record of Testimony, the master's hearing shall be conducted as follows:
(1) The plaintiff and all witnesses whose evidence has been prepared in advance shall be present and be sworn and affirmed.
(2) The plaintiff and the witnesses shall affirm their prerecorded evidence in the presence of the master.
(3) The master may examine the plaintiff and the witnesses with respect to the evidence prepared in advance in order to evaluate the credibility of those offering prerecorded evidence, and, to this end, may interrogate the plaintiff and the witnesses as to any relevant matters, including any post nuptial agreement, whether or not included in the Prepared Record of Testimony. Plaintiff's Record of Testimony is credible evidence, shall accept it and include it in his report in lieu of findings on the merits; provided, however, that in the report the master certifies:
(4) The master, upon being satisfied that the
(i) that at the hearing and in his presence the plaintiff and the witnesses offering prerecorded testimony were placed under oath or affirmation and were examined and that they, by credible evidence, substantiated the facts set forth in the Plaintiff's Record of Testimony; and
(ii) that no witness who was sworn or affirmed presented testimony or evidence to the contrary of the facts set forth in such Record of Testimony.
(m) Master's Report in Uncontested Cases.
After the hearing wherein the Plaintiff's Record of Testimony has been accepted, the master shall prepare and file his report together with his recommendation in accordance with Pa. R.C.P.1920.53(a) and (c).
(n) Powers of Master.
The master shall have the usual powers of a referee in equity in regard to the conduct of the hearing.
(o) Return of Monies Deposited With the Court.
Monies deposited with the Clerk of Courts Civil pursuant to this rule shall be returned to counsel for the party entitled thereto if no action has been taken before the master within two (2) years from the date of the deposit and upon motion of counsel. A motion must be accompanied by a certificate of the master that no action has been taken by the master. The Clerk of Courts Civil shall determine whether any action has been taken in the lawsuit by reference to the docket entries and a certificate of the master.
Subsections (d) and (e) amended October 20, 1992, effective December 7, 1992.
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Created at 1/29/2016 10:59 AM by Vitek Gajewski
Last modified at 1/29/2016 10:59 AM by Vitek Gajewski
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