What to Do if the Other Parent Withholds Your Child

Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC. – Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers

Is your ex-spouse or former partner withholding your child or interfering with your custody rights? Dealing with a situation where the other parent prevents you from seeing your child can be emotionally challenging and legally complex. In this situation, only a court can provide appropriate relief, which is why retaining an experienced family law attorney is essential.

After representing parents in child custody disputes for over 40 years, the Philadelphia child custody lawyers at Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC can provide an overview of your rights and the appropriate steps to safeguard your relationship with your children.

Can One Parent Prevent the Other From Seeing Their Child?

If a custody order is in place, one parent may not prevent the other parent from seeing the child. However, in some situations, one parent may attempt to prevent the other from seeing their child. Specifically, the parent must reasonably believe that allowing the child to see the other parent poses immediately threatens the child’s health and welfare, and should also file a Petition to Modify the current custody order.

What If There’s No Custody Order?

Under Pennsylvania law (§5327), when no custody order is in place, both parents are presumed to be entitled to custody. If there is no formal custody order in place, there is nothing for a court to enforce, i.e., a court cannot compel one parent to grant the other parent access to the child. This is why it is essential to retain a Philadelphia family law lawyer who can assist you with establishing a clear custody agreement that safeguards your parental rights.

Are There Exceptions to Withholding Your Child?

While withholding a child is generally discouraged and can have legal consequences, there may be exceptional circumstances where it is necessary to protect the child’s well-being or safety. You can prevent the other parent from seeing your child if you obtain a Protection from Abuse order (PFA) which protects the child. You can also withhold your child if you obtain emergency custody via an Emergency Custody Petition.

Steps to Take if Your Ex is Withholding Your Child

Addressing a situation where your ex-spouse withholds your child requires a strategic approach. You can increase the legal strength of your case by:

  • Maintaining a detailed journal documenting each instance your ex withheld your child.
  • Record the names and contact information of potential witnesses
  • Document how your ex’s actions are affecting your child
  • Continue paying child support if you are the non-custodial parent

Following these steps can help you navigate the situation effectively and seek legal remedies to enforce your parental rights.

Talk With Your Lawyer

Consulting with a family law attorney is the first and most crucial step. The Philadelphia child custody attorneys at SFS can provide accurate and honest legal advice. Our family law attorneys will also work with you to build a case that protects your rights and your relationship with your child.

See About Make-Up Parenting Time

Instead of seeking sanctions, you can request make-up parenting time. For example, if the other parent’s actions deprived you of 14 days with your child, you can negotiate an informal agreement that allows you to spend an additional two weeks with your child during their summer break. If the other parent refuses, you can seek this remedy in court.

Request the Court Enforce the Custody Order

In addition to contempt, Pennsylvania custody law (§5323(f)) allows a court to enforce a child custody order. Specifically, the child custody order must contain “sufficient detail to enable a party to enforce the court order through law enforcement authorities.” Depending on the facts of your case, the other parent may be compelled by the police or sheriff to comply with the terms of the child custody order.

Request Modification to the Custody Order

If the other parent is preventing you from spending time with your child, you may be able to obtain a modification of the custody order. Per Pennsylvania custody law (§5328(a) and §5338(a)), a parent can petition to modify a custody order if it is in the child’s best interest. To succeed, you must demonstrate that the other parent’s actions are harming your child and that a modification to the custody order serves your child’s best interests.

Talk with an Experienced Philadelphia Child Custody Attorney

Child custody cases and visitation disputes should not be taken lightly and require strong legal representation. The Philadelphia child custody lawyers at SFS Attorneys have been successfully litigating visitation and child custody issues on behalf of our clients for over 40 years. For experienced legal guidance and support in navigating child custody issues in Philadelphia, contact us today to obtain a free consultation with our experienced child custody attorneys.

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