When to File Contempt Charges for Child Custody Violations in Pennsylvania
Contempt Charges for Child Custody Violations
Once a child custody and visitation agreement is approved by the court, all parties involved are required to adhere to its provisions. This can include a child’s biological or legal parents, as well as stepparents and grandparents if they are included in the agreement. Failure to do so is a serious violation of a court order and is punishable by fines and jail time. If someone is denying you your court-ordered visitation rights, you will want to speak to an experienced Montgomery County child custody attorney.
For over two decades, the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. has been successfully representing Pennsylvania parents involved in child custody and visitation disputes. We know how important your relationship with your children is and want to help you preserve that relationship. For a free case evaluation, call the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., at (866) 290-9292.
What Is Contempt of Court?
Child custody and visitation agreements are court-approved and legally binding, and if an individual does not abide by an agreement’s provisions, they are in violation of a court order – which legally means they are in contempt. When this occurs, the other parent outlined in the agreement can file a contempt of court charge against the person who violated the order. A charge of contempt allows the court to take such actions as imposing fines, jail time, physically returning the child to the other parent, denying visitation by the violating parent or family member, and order that the defendant pay damages and legal fees of the plaintiff.
When Can a Parent File Contempt of Court Charges?
Contempt of court charges are typically filed when one parent “violates” a child custody and visitation agreement, and this can encompass a variety of situations. Custody can be awarded to both of the child’s biological or legal parents, as well as stepparents and grandparents. If one parent refused to respect another’s visitation time or constantly tried to change the visitation schedule, the other parent could file contempt of court charges. In addition, if one parent attempted to move out of state without getting court-order approval, then the other parent could also file contempt of court charges.
Contempt of court charges can be filed in family law cases where:
- One parent refuses to return a child to the other parent if they have joint physical custody or visitation
- One parent refuses to respect another parent’s or party’s visitation time
- One parent refuses to pay child support to the other parent
- One parent attempts to move out of the state or out of the country with the child
- One parent tries to keep the child and other parent from communicating with each other
- One parent takes the child on an unplanned or unagreed-upon vacation
- One parent makes a decision about the child’s health or education that violates the other parent’s legal custody rights
Can a Parent Legally Deny Custody or Visitation Rights to Another Parent?
If a parent has been awarded custody or visitation rights through a court order, then the other parent cannot legally deny those rights. Doing so is a clear violation of the court order and can lead to contempt of court charges.
Under a custody and visitation plan, both parents must:
- Respect each other’s rights to see and communicate with the child according to the agreement
- Appear at all parenting meetings on time and without delay
- Clearly communicate any issues regarding the child’s health, education, or well-being to each other
- Discuss any potential changes to a custody or visitation schedule, including potential vacations, work trips, or court appointments that might interfere with the routine schedule
- Abide by any provisions within the custody and visitation plan
Many parents believe they can withhold visitation or custody from another parent if that parent has not paid child support. This is not true. The courts consider visitation and custody rights to be separate from child support. Likewise, one parent cannot withhold child support payments if they are being denied custody or visitation rights.
If another parent is denying you child support payments or custody, then you should go through proper channels to ensure the court order is enforced. One method of doing this is to file contempt of court charges, but first, you should speak to an experienced family law attorney to ensure you have a strong case.
What Can Be Done If Your Ex Is Denying You Custody and Visitation Rights?
If you are being denied custody and/or visitation rights, you basically have three options:
- Enlist an attorney to write a formal letter to the violating parent and inform them that you are about to take legal action against them. This lets them know you are serious and also begins documentation needed to take legal action.
- File contempt of court charges: This is recommended in cases of serious or ongoing violations of child custody and visitation agreements.
Of these options, a contempt of court charge is usually the most effective.
How Can I File a Motion for Contempt of Court in Pennsylvania?
First, you’ll want to have as much documentation as possible. This could include copies of letters and emails, phone messages, texts, and relevant days and dates, and descriptions of events.
Next, you’ll want to seek the representation of an experienced Montgomery County family law firm. While legal representation is not required, it is highly advised in such situations. Remember, it is your child’s best interests that are at stake, you will want informed and knowledgeable guidance when you take legal action.
Contact a Montgomery County Lawyer to Discuss Child Custody Violations
For over 25 years, the legal team at the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., has helped parents throughout Montgomery County and the Philadelphia area maintain their relationships with their children. If you are facing difficulties seeing your child, then you should speak to our Montgomery County family law attorney immediately. We can review your custody agreement and provide legal guidance on how to move forward with contempt of court charges. If the case is serious, we may even be able to successfully file an emergency custody order to have your child returned to you. To speak to a compassionate and skilled lawyer, call our offices today at (866) 290-9292 and schedule a free consultation.