During a Pennsylvania divorce one of the things a family court is often asked to determine is child custody. Even if the parties can agree outside of court, they must come to an agreement about the child custody schedule they will follow. Once the case is resolved, the parents obtain a court order from the PA family law judge, who has determined the custody arrangement based on the best interest of the child or based on the party's own negotiations. This court order, no matter if based on the judge's decision or party's arrangement, is legally binding on the parties, and if broken can lead to contempt proceedings.
If one of the parties violates the child custody agreement by either not allowing the other parent to see the child according to the schedule or by constantly trying to make changes to the schedule, can be held in contempt by the Pennsylvania family court. Filing for contempt will allow the parent in the right to enforce the custody order onto the parent in violation of it. Many parties may want to modify the custody order when the other party violates it, but filing for contempt prior to filing for a modification of the child custody schedule is a more time efficient and cost efficient option for parents.
One of the reasons we suggest filing a Petition for Contempt before a Modification Petition is because of the time involved. Modification Petitions of PA Child Custody orders take much longer to be processed through an Allegheny County family court than petitions for contempt do. Filing for contempt allows a court to enforce the order and potentially grant the non-breaching party attorney's fees. This process can happen in one hearing as opposed to a lengthy, drawn-out custody battle, which is what usually occurs in a hearing for modification of an order.
If you currently have a child custody arrangement in place and feel that the other parent is constantly violating this plan, contact our PA child custody attorneys at Lisa Marie Vari & Associates. Our team of family law attorneys has many years of experience dealing with all kinds of child custody cases in Western Pennsylvania and we can provide you with the legal representation you need to make sure that your custody arrangement is adhered to.