Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation

Mother Not In Contempt For Failing To Advise Father Of Teenage Child’s Employment That Interfered With Child Visitation

In the family law, child visitation case of Guardibascio v. Guardibascio, PICS Case No. 15-0624 (C.P. Monroe, Oct. 23, 2014) the Honorable David J. Williamson ruled that the mother was not in contempt for failing to inform father of teenage child’s employment that interfered with visitation.

Father filed a petition for contempt alleging that mother refused to allow the parties’ then 15 year old daughter, Olivia, to have a scheduled visitation pursuant to the existing court order on Father’s Day, June 15, 2014. Father also alleged mother allowed Olivia to obtain a job without consulting him. Father also requested modification of the prior custody order filed by a separate petition.

Both matters were scheduled and heard by the Custody Conciliator, who made a recommendation that was adopted as an order. The order set father’s physical custody periods as every other weekend from Friday at 6:30 p.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m., beginning July 11, 2014. As an apparent accommodation to the parties, due to Olivia’s work schedule, father’s period of partial physical custody of Olivia in July and August 2014 consisted of the Aug. 22, 2014 weekend only.

Both parties were present at the contempt hearing. Father testified that in addition to the matters raised in his contempt petition, mother had also refused to exchange the children for his scheduled weekend of Sept. 5, 2014. Mother testified this was due to a church activity the children wanted to participate in on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014.

The parties resided more than two hours apart. Father lived in Tannersville, Pennsylvania and mother lived in Toms River, New Jersey. Father testified that when he became aware that Olivia was working at a resort job for the summer, he tried to confirm in advance she would still visit the weekend of June 13, 14 and 15. That weekend was father’s weekend for custody as well as Father’s Day. Additional testimony was that Olivia did not want to miss work, and she had chosen her schedule months in advance. The parties discussed Olivia taking off Father’s Day. However, father and mother could not reach an agreement because father suggested a three-hour time frame and Olivia did not want to incur the travel distance involved for such a short period of custody. As a result, Olivia did not go to father’s house for Father’s Day or for the rest of that weekend.

There was no dispute the children did not go to father’s on his weekend of custody in September, nor did Olivia go on father’s weekend, including Father’s Day, in June 2014. The court agreed that father did not get his time of custody pursuant to the court order.

No custody order can address every circumstance. There has to be flexibility by both parties to serve both the best interests of the children and to avoid conflict. The court found that mother was in contempt of the plain language of the custody order for the missed weekend in September 2014. The court declined to find mother in contempt for Olivia’s failure to visit father on Father’s Day weekend or for failing to consult father before Olivia obtained employment. The court granted father one additional weekend of custody in November or December 2014 of his choice. The court also ordered that the parties participate in the Our Family Wizard program to communicate and document their communication attempts with each other.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 38 PLW 401 (Tuesday, April 28, 2015)

Filed Under: Family Law; Visitation; Contempt

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