Failure to follow a court order can lead to a custody dispute and legal wrangling despite improvements in Pennsylvania's laws. A bill was recently introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that provides another legal remedy when a parent does not comply with a child custody order.
If a parent does not follow an order, the other parent is usually limited to returning to court and filing for an order of contempt. The case then returns to the conference officer. Normally, the offending parent receives a minor penalty for their first violation. For the second violation, the case will go to a judge who will usually make the violator pay the other parent's attorney's fees. Future violations will usually lead to more threats from the judge.
The proposed bill provides for the granting of make-up time for the parent when the other parent violates a custody or visitation order. The state Superior Court has ruled that a judge may not impose make-up time without a state law authorizing it.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Tedd Nesbit, said that this remedy is intended to discourage parents from violating custody orders and would allow the other parent to receive make-up time with their children. He believes that this proposal serves the best interests of the child by allowing sharing time with both of their parents and equality.
Bill opponents argue that parents may not follow a custody order when they are trying to protect their children from an abusive parent. However, Rep. Nesbit said that the legislation provides judges with discretion to address this and determine what is best for the child.