Pittsburgh Child Custody: Contempt Proceedings

If parties to a child custody action have entered into a final custody order, violations of this order may be the basis for bringing Pennsylvania child custody contempt claims. First and foremost, a violation of a custody order must be willful in order for it to be considered a basis for contempt proceedings. “Willful” is basically defined by case law in PA as a criminal standard. As such, wrongful intent or “willful” behavior will be found where the contemnor knows or reasonably should be aware that his conduct is wrongful. Our blog today will discuss examples of custody order violations that could be a basis for a contempt action in a Pennsylvania child custody action.

One example of behavior which warrants a child custody contempt action is when one person takes the child without alerting the other parent (usually when it is not their custody time). This could be the child’s other parent or another family member of one of the child’s parents. This could be considered serious if it amounts to kidnapping – especially if the child is being taken to another state or out of the country.

If one parent is attempting to interfere with the other parent’s communication with the child, this could also be the basis for a contempt action. If a parent is not permitting phone contact, emails, or regular communication between the child and their other parent, this could be grounds for a Pennsylvania child custody contempt action. Child custody orders typically include language that communication between the child and their other parent shall be fostered by both parents during their custody time.

Withholding physical custody time (including visitation rights) can also be the basis for a contempt action in Pennsylvania. If the parents have entered a final custody order defining the physical custody schedule of their child(ren), this is the schedule that should be followed. There may be provisions regarding the amount of advance notice one parent must give another prior to being unable to exercise their scheduled custody time. However, simply withholding the child from the other parent is a basis for contempt. Additionally, our Pittsburgh Child Custody Lawyers are familiar with situations where one parent will deny the other custody time because of one parent’s refusal to pay child support for that child. In Pennsylvania, even if one parent has not paid their child support or they are not current with their payments, that parent still has the right to see their child. Child Support and Child Custody are considered separate issues in Pennsylvania courts.

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