For example, we normally go through a custody exchange at daycare (I drop the child off in the morning and the mother picks up the child after work).
If I were to take the day off from work, does my ex-wife have the right to have her boyfriend pick the child up at my house in the morning or does my right as a father allow me to spend the time with my child until his mother can actually fulfill her custodial role?
Because I do not know the specifics of your custody order, I can not answer your question with 100% certainty. That being said, it appears to me that the issue at hand is the clarity and/or specificity of your custody order. Your “rights as a father” are, unfortunately, not really a part of the equation.
In cases of custody, there is no default arrangement. By this I mean that if a custody order does not account for a certain situation then resolution of the issue depends on whether or not parties can reach an agreement.
If parties can not reach an agreement, the best action to take would be to file a Motion for Clarification regarding the order’s parameters, or to file a Custody Modification allowing for a re-drafting of the custody schedule that accounts for the unclear situation.
In this instance, it seems that your custody order did not address, or was ambiguous in addressing, which parent retains custody of your child during the daytime. An alternative interpretation would be that your custody order does not account for situations where your child would remain home with either parent instead of attending daycare. For instance, if your child is sick.
Should the issue be addressed in court, I can see at least two possible analyses of your current custody order. Either a) your custody time ends when you drop your child off at daycare, thereby allowing Mom to enforce custody during the day; or b) your custody time ends when Mom picks your child up from daycare, thereby allowing you to enforce custody throughout the day, should your normal schedule change.
Again, without seeing the exact language of your order I can not offer a thorough assessment. I would urge you to double check your order. Be sure that you are not in violation of any clear directives regarding custody exchanges.
If you withhold your child during a time that has been reserved as his/her mother’s custody time, you could be found in contempt of the order. However, if your order is indeed as vague as it sounds with regard to this issue, your best course of action would be either of the ones suggested above- to file the Motion for Clarification or to file a Custody Modification.
As your situation has the potential to develop in to a hotly contested issue, I would recommend seeking further legal advice. Cordell & Cordell has attorneys licensed and located in Pennsylvania who can provide a more in-depth analysis of your current custody arrangement.
Margaret M. Daly is a Staff Attorney in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office of Cordell & Cordell, where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Daly is licensed in the state of Pennsylvania. Ms. Daly received her undergraduate degree in English and Psychology and her Juris Doctor from Duquesne University. While in law school, she worked with Pittsburgh’s Neighborhood Legal Services Association, assisting low income clients in a variety of Family Law Issues.