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How does parenting time interference affect child custody?

| Aug 17, 2020 | Child Custody

In Pennsylvania, there are 16 factors the Court must determine in fashioning Custody Orders. Parenting time interference is NUMBER ONE.

The love between a parent and child often knows no bounds. Often from the moment of birth, a Pennsylvania parent feels a strong connection to their child and an overwhelming sense of duty to protect them. Relationships between parents and children often change over time, but rarely does a parent lose their conviction to do whatever they can to support and love their child.  The Custody Statute in Pennsylvania mirrors this philosophy that children do best when they have continuing contact with both parents.

Events, though, can alter the way that family members see each other and the beliefs that they hold. For example, divorce can be a significant event in the life of a child, and even the most compassionate parents may struggle to maintain balance and peace for the sake of their kids. This post will introduce the topic of parenting time interference, but it does not offer any legal advice. Parents with concerns about this and other child custody issues should talk to their family law attorneys.

What is Parenting Time Interference?

Parenting time interference is not a single act or event. It is a behavior or pattern of behavior that prevents one parent from having a full relationship with their child. It may involve direct interference, such as one parent failing to drop their child off for visitation with the other parent. It may be indirect, such as one parent failing to tell the other about a school meeting or doctor’s appointment coming up for their child. Parenting time interference is a problem that can sometimes escalate into a bigger issue for families.  This type of behavior is not sanctioned by the law in our Commonwealth and most of the Judges in Pennsylvania do not like this type of behavior and normally use it against the parent who is exhibiting this type of behavior.

When Interference Becomes Alienation

Though there is not universal acceptance of the issue, parental alienation syndrome is a condition that some legal experts have suggested can develop when parents taint their children against their former partners. When interference becomes so significant that a child no longer wishes to have a relationship with one of their parents, parental alienation syndrome may be present. It can have a serious impact on the parent-child relationship and impede their future connection.

The only way to present this type of condition is through expert testimony. During the Psychological Evaluation process, this behavior can be recognized but normally a separate expert must also be retained to evaluate a series of behaviors which fall into the above classification.

Managing relationships, responsibilities, and emotions after a divorce or separation can be difficult. An attorney can help a parent understand many of the legal difficulties that can come up due to child custody arrangements. Individualized support is an important component of successful transitions for families that go through divorce.  The attorney should be very familiar with the laws and statues that describe this behavior and that attorney needs to educate the parent on how these types of issues would affect the outcome in custody, what evidence needs to be presented, including Expert Witnesses and how this would apply to the overall standard of Best Interests of the Child.