I have court-ordered visitation with my children, but their mother is refusing to let them spend time with me.
I have filed contempt charges and need help with what to do next. I am also wanting to seek custody of my children.
While I am not licensed to practice law in your state and cannot give you legal advice, I can give some general observations on this issue based on the jurisdiction where I practice.
Where I do practice in Pennsylvania, if the court has issued a custody order, that order is almost always the controlling document when it comes to who has legal and physical custody of the children, as well as other related terms—including but not limited to a custody schedule and terms outlining what is to be done if one party wants to relocate with the children. This order should be followed by both parents, no matter who may have primary physical custody or if there are terms for supervised visitation.
Yet if one parent is not following the custody terms in the order, that parent may be in violation of the order. Sometimes, a discussion with the parent regarding how the order is to be followed will help — simply pointing to the applicable terms in the order will have a change in circumstances and behavior.
However, if a parent continues to not comply with an existing custody order, upon the filing of the proper petition, the court may eventually find that parent in contempt of court. In Pennsylvania, penalties for non-compliance with a custody order can include a fine or imprisonment.
As to a change in the current custody order, such an order can be modified by filing the proper pleading with the court. When custody is to be modified, Pennsylvania courts are required to look at 16 factors to determine what custody award is in the best interest of the child.
One factor is which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child. If it can be properly demonstrated to the court that the mother cannot maintain a loving relationship with the child because she emotionally abuses the child, such a factor may work against the mother in the custody case.
Typically, however, Pennsylvania courts do not rely on just one factor and look at all 16 in total when making a custody determination. Depending on the age of the child, sometimes the court will interview the child to get his or her take on the issue or even have the child testify in open court.
Due to the extremely sensitive and fact-specific nature of this situation, I would strongly suggest you contact an attorney who handles family law matters in your jurisdiction, such as Cordell & Cordell, to see how your state’s laws can help you with this serious situation.
Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than divorce tips, so please consult a domestic litigation attorney in your jurisdiction to obtain specific advice as to the laws in your state and how they impact your potential case.