When a divorce decree is finalized by the court, the decree often contains specific orders to one party specifically called court orders. These orders may include payment of child support or spousal support or a transfer of property to one spouse. The courts may also order specific visitation schedules for the non-custodial parent. Too often, former spouses may elect to ignore these orders which can create numerous problems. The penalties to the offending party for these transgressions can be severe but oftentimes the party who is being harmed needs to file a claim in order to call the court’s attention to the situation. Your family law attorney may suggest you file a contempt of court case against the offending party.
What do I have to prove?
Before you can file a contempt of court charge against the person who is violating a court order, there are certain conditions that must be met. You will have to be able to prove to the satisfaction of the court some of these conditions:
- The order is valid – a contempt of court case requires the agreement between the partners was ordered by the court and that one person is violating that order.
- The defendant is aware of the order – in some divorce cases, both parties may not have attended the court hearings. If a judge orders support payments or visitation, the other person has to be aware these orders are in place in order to obey them. In most cases, this can be accomplished by sending a copy of the orders to the other party immediately following a divorce.
- The person is knowingly in default – if your former spouse calls you and tells you they will not make a support payment or that you cannot see your child, this is clear evidence they are knowingly violating a court order.
What are the penalties?
Each case is slightly different and no two contempt cases will have identical penalties. However, some of the common penalties include:
- Payment of fines – depending on the severity of the contempt, the court may order fines be paid by the offending party.
- Payment of legal fees – your family attorney may request the offender be held responsible for your legal fees to enforce the court order.
- Jail time – deliberate contempt of court could result in jail time for the offender. While this may seem harsh, repeat offenders may face jail time for deliberately ignoring court orders.
Divorcees who are facing challenges getting their former spouse to obey family law court orders it is important to contact an attorney for assistance. It is never a good idea to try to resolve these issues directly with your former spouse because any agreement made directly with them cannot be enforced by the courts.
If you have questions and would like to speak with an attorney, please call our office to schedule an appointment.