Child custody laws in Pennsylvania have improved over the years, but some say there are still areas that need work, especially when one parent doesn’t follow a custody order.
“There are no custody police. There is nobody enforcing that,” attorney John F. King said. “What happens if one parent doesn’t follow the custody order? The other one files the contempt and it goes right back to that conference officer.”
“The first time they will get a slap on the wrist. The second time maybe it will get bumped up to a judge and the judge will make the wrongdoer pay for the other person’s attorney fees. If they continually do it, the judge can make threats, basically.”
“We need to have a remedy for that,” said Rep. Tedd Nesbit (R-Mercer/Butler).
Awarding make-up time may seem logical, but not with the way the law is written.
“Someone appealed that to the Superior Court and the Superior Court said you cannot do that because it is not listed in the contempt rules,” said Nesbit.
Nesbit has introduced House Bill 437 in hopes of making it clear that a judge can issue make-up time.
“I think this would help to discourage people from not following the rules and give the other parent a chance to get their made-up time,” said Nesbit. “We need to do what’s in the best interest of the kids and a lot of times that is sharing time with both parents, and we need an equal playing field for that.”
Opponents to the bill say in some cases, parents may be trying to protect a child from an abusive situation by not following a custody order. Nesbit says his bill gives the judge the discretion to determine what is best for the child.
“It is gaining more steam. I am more confident we have a chance of getting it passed this year,” said Nesbit.
A rally supporting House Bill 437 will be held in the Capitol Rotunda on March 18 at 1:30 p.m.