To those involved in child custody cases, the wheels of justice often appear to turn slowly. When the legal custody and residential placement of children stands at issue, the long and arduous process of making it to trial in a civil case can feel even longer. Fortunately for litigants in Pennsylvania, state law provides for temporary child custody proceedings to tide litigants and children over until the full trial.
A parent who has obtained information of a charge filed against the other parent can seek a temporary custody order or to modify an existing order. The court must consider whether either parent may harm the child or has been charged with an offense related to aggravated assault, terrorist threats, stalking, arson or contempt for violation of an order or agreement.
In deciding whether to award temporary custody or temporary visitation rights, the court must consider any risk posed by the defendant parent to the children and risk to the plaintiff parent. A defendant shall not be granted any custody or unsupervised visitation when it finds after a hearing that the defendant abused or poses a risk of abuse to the minor children of the parties, or has been convicted of interference with the custody of children within 2 years of the filing for a protective order.
When the court finds after a hearing under this chapter that the defendant has inflicted serious abuse upon the plaintiff or a child or poses a risk of abuse toward the plaintiff or a child, the court can award supervised visitation in a secure visitation facility or deny the defendant custodial access to a child.
Defendant with Custody
If a plaintiff seeks a temporary order and the defendant has at least some custody of the minor children that was granted by the court or by a written agreement of the parties, the court cannot disturb the custody unless it finds that the defendant is likely to abuse the children or remove them from the state before the court holds a hearing. In cases where the defendant has removed a minor child from the plaintiff, the court must order the return of the child to the plaintiff unless there is risk of harm to the child.
A Pennsylvania court that does not have jurisdiction to change child custody can issue a temporary order enforcing another state court's visitation schedule or the visitation provisions of child custody granted by another state that does not give a specific visitation schedule. The order is effective until the other court issues an order or the temporary order expires