Going through the custody process in Pennsylvania can be complex, costly and time-consuming. Once you have a final custody agreement or order established, you may feel a huge sense of relief that the matter is resolved, so you can move forward and focus on your relationship with your child.
That’s why it is so frustrating when one parent refuses to follow a custody order. All of the terms in a custody order serve to minimize conflict and promote a healthy co-parenting relationship.
Your co-parent may be constantly late for custody exchanges or refuse to return your child after their custody time is over. Alternatively, they may not exercise their periods of custody, making you feel like all the time you spent working out an agreement or going to court was a waste.
Luckily, Pennsylvania law allows you to ask a court to order your co-parent to follow the custody order by filing a motion for contempt and asking the judge to find your co-parent in contempt of court. After the filing of a motion for contempt, a hearing before a Contempt Hearing Officer will be scheduled. A hearing is required to determine if a co-parent is in contempt of court. Being in “contempt” means that someone is not following a court order.
Possible penalties or Sanctions for violating a custody order
If a judge finds that your co-parent intentionally disobeyed the custody order and is in contempt, punishments may include:
- A fine of up to $500
- Make-up custodial periods
- Jail time of up to 6 months
- Probation of up to 6 months
You may also request that the judge order your co-parent to pay any costs you incurred in the contempt action and your attorney fees if you are working with a custody attorney.
Contempt actions can be filed for any term of the custody order that your co-parent is not following. They must follow the custody schedule itself.
For example, if your custody order states that neither parent is to consume alcohol on their custody time, and you have evidence your co-parent was drinking with your child, you may file contempt. In this example, you should also call the police and or speak with a custody attorney immediately in the event you discover that one of your co-parents is intoxicated during their court-ordered custodial period.
Courts take custody orders seriously, as they involve a child’s health, safety and well-being. A contempt action can help protect your child’s best interests.