Child custody violations can result in contempt charges being brought against the parent responsible for the violation. Courts expect that agreements pertaining to child custody be followed by all parties, and can harshly punish those who fail to follow the Court's guidelines.
With the help of experienced criminal defense attorney David J. Cohen at your side every step of the way, you can know that you are represented by an attorney who understands Pennsylvania child custody laws and can defend your case.
Child Custody in Pennsylvania
Child custody and visitation rights are a common part of a Pennsylvania divorce case. When two formerly married people have children, a child custody plan is put in place as part of the divorce process. Child custody issues can be extremely contentious and are rife with potential complications.
Custody is determined by a family court judge as part of your divorce. There are different kinds of custody in Pennsylvania, including:
- Temporary Custody: The parent has only a short time to have custody over the children.
- Split Custody: The parents both have full physical control on one or more children in a multi-child home. This means that siblings may be split up and live primarily with different parents.
- Sole Custody: All of the children live with one parent who has full custody over the children.
- Joint Custody: This is Pennsylvania's preferred method, in which both parents have custody of all of the children. There are three categories of joint custody in the Commonwealth:
- Joint Legal Custody: A child lives in one home, and both parents share decision making over the child.
- Shared Physical Custody: A child lives in two homes, and the parents share decision making over the child.
- Combination of Both as Decided by the Court.
Modifying Child Custody Arrangements
There are two methods by which you can change the child custody arrangements in Pennsylvania.
- By mutual agreement; or
- Court order.
Mutual Agreement to Modify
This most likely happens when circumstances change, and the requirements of the prior court order as to child custody no longer works for the family. When the parties can agree, they can approach the court with an agreement for approval.
This is much more convenient, less expensive, and usually results in the court's approval, as long as the new arrangement is in the best interests of the children.
Court Orders to Modify
When the parents cannot agree to the changes that are necessary, you may need to petition the court for a modification of the child custody arrangement. With the help of your attorney, you can file the proper form, with the necessary information, to seek a modification.
The court will look to the best interests of the children to determine whether to approve a contested modification. It is important to present your argument in the best light possible, and clearly show the judge why your suggested changes are in the children's best interest. Your attorney can help you to do this.
Child Custody Violations in Pennsylvania
Child custody violations can lead to serious consequences and can be incredibly frustrating for the party that has to deal with those violations.
When a court creates or adopts a child custody arrangement, it expects that both parties will follow that agreement to the letter (with certain exceptions). However, it is not at all unusual for there to be violations by one or both parents of a child custody agreement.
Common violations include:
- Refusal to allow for scheduled visitation;
- Lack of communication about legal or medical decisions made for the children;
- Excessive lateness in meeting times or scheduled parenting time;
- Violation of vacation policies; and
- Other instances where a parent is denied access to his or her children.
When a parent violates the child custody rules set by the court, he or she could be held in contempt.
A person who "willfully fails to comply with any custody order may, as prescribed by general rule, be adjudged in contempt" under Section 5323(g)(1) of the Pennsylvania statutes.
If a person is found in contempt for failure to follow the court's child custody order, he or she faces the following potential penalties:
- Up to 6 months in jail;
- A maximum fine of $500;
- Attorney's fees and costs; and
- A driver's license suspension.
You should not engage in "self-help" in order to rectify a violation of a child custody order. If the other parent is violating the child custody order, you must go through the court. Avoiding in retaliation, even when it seems fair, is considered "self-help" and can get you in a lot of trouble, even when the other parent started everything.
Example: Claire and Jonathan have two kids, and were awarded joint legal custody. The kids live primarily with Claire but live with Jonathan on Wednesdays and alternate weekends. Jonathan is obligated to pay child support but is over 4 months behind. To force him to pay it, Claire won't allow Jonathan to have the kids during his scheduled time. Even though Jonathan has violated part of his obligations by not paying child support, Claire is violating the child custody arrangement by engaging in "self-help."
Consult an Experienced Pennsylvania Child Custody Attorney
If you are facing issues related to child custody violations your stress level is likely high, and you likely need help in getting it resolved. Whether you need help enforcing an agreement, or defending yourself against allegations of violating the agreement, there are legal avenues toward success.