IN THE INTEREST OF E.O., A MINOR APPEAL OF: A.O., FATHER IN THE INTEREST OF: B.O., A MINOR APPEAL OF: A.O., FATHER
from the Order Entered August 3, 2017 In the Court of Common
Pleas of Philadelphia County Family Court at No(s):
BEFORE: LAZARUS, J., DUBOW, J., and PLATT [*], J.
(Father) appeals from the orders, entered in the Court of
Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, finding him in
contempt for violating a visitation order in an
underlying dependency proceeding and ordering him to serve
seven days of incarceration. After careful review, we vacate
and remand for further proceedings.
January 2017 shelter care hearing, legal custody of
Father's minor children, E.O. and B.O. (Children), was
transferred to the Philadelphia Department of Human Services
(DHS); they were placed in a foster home. In February 2017,
Children were adjudicated dependent; the trial court ordered
Father have weekly, supervised, line-of-hearing visits with
Children, at Children's discretion, at the Community
Umbrella Agency (Agency). At an August 3, 2017 permanency review
hearing, the trial court found Father in contempt for
violating the visitation order after Children told their
assigned social worker that Father calls them on the
telephone ten times a day and was meeting with them after
court appearances. At the conclusion of the hearing, the
court ordered Father to immediately serve seven days of
incarceration for contempt. The court ordered both parents to
continue with supervised visits at the Agency, at the sole
discretion of Children. On August 10, 2017, the court held a
hearing, stating that the "case was brought back today
only to release Father from incarceration at CFCF. Father was
held in contempt in violation of court order at the last
hearing on 8/3/2017."
filed a timely notice of appeal from the court's contempt
order and a court-ordered Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) concise statement
of errors raised on appeal. He raises the following issues
for our consideration:
(1) Whether the trial court erred by finding Father in
criminal contempt, rather than civil contempt.
(2) Whether the trial court erred by sentencing Father for
direct criminal contempt rather than indirect criminal
(3) Whether the trial court erred by failing to provide
Father with all necessary [c]onstitutional protections and
safeguards required for criminal defendants.
(4) Whether the trial court erred by failing to establish
Father's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
(5) Whether the trial court erred by failing to sentence
Father in accordance with the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal
Appellant's Brief, at 7.
Contempt of court may be classified as civil or criminal in
nature. The distinction between the two categories lies in
the purpose behind the court's finding of contempt. If
the dominant purpose of the court is to prospectively coerce
the contemnor into compliance with the court's directive,
the adjudication is one of civil contempt. However,
if the court's dominant purpose is to punish the
contemnor for disobedience of the court's order, the
adjudication is one of criminal contempt.
In the Interest of C.W., 960 A.2d 458, 466 (Pa.
Super. 2008) (emphasis added), citing Pruitt,