Contempt of Court in Family Law Cases
A contempt of court charge is the legal consequence for an individual that is willfully non-compliant with a court order. Contempt can carry civil or criminal sanctions, depending on the severity of the infraction. In family law, there is a wide range of civil infractions that can result in contempt charges. A judge can enforce orders through monetary judgments, garnishment of wages or income tax returns, liens on property, the suspension of professional or driver’s licenses and incarceration. The offender can be ordered to attend parenting classes, counseling sessions or pay attorney’s fees for the other party. These penalties are designed to strongly encourage compliance. Some instances of contempt charges in family court are;
- One parent disallowing child visitation rights or refusal to return a child after visitation.
- Non-compliance with an equitable distribution decree.
- Violation of a no contact order.
- Refusal to pay child or alimony support.
- Refusal to attend or participate in court ordered mediation.
- Any violation of the divorce decree or the parenting plan.
To file a Motion for Contempt, the petitioner must prove four elements. This includes the presentation of a valid court order signed by a judge that is in effect, proof that the alleged offender was aware of the court order, proof that the alleged offender had the ability to follow the court order and evidence that the non-compliance was willful. It is in the best interest of ex-spouses to maintain a journal, with detailed entries of all involvement with their children and their compliance with their marital settlement orders. This can be presented as evidence to the court regarding the consistent behavior of yourself or inconsistent behavior of your ex-spouse.
We can represent the Plaintiff or the Defendant in Contempt Cases
If there is a reasonable explanation why a court order was violated, the contempt charge against the defendant may be dismissed. For example, if the visitation plan was not followed, but the alleged offender has proof that he was hospitalized or out of town for employment, this is not intentional misconduct. Due to the complexities of filing a Motion for Contempt and the need for strong legal representation if you are being charged with contempt, it is best to contact an attorney to complete the documents and present the evidence to a judge. C.J. Hilliard Law, P.A. can advise and guide you through the court proceedings, whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant. Perhaps the petitioner has insufficient evidence to prove willful disobedience, or the court order has ambiguities. If you are unable to pay the current amount for your child support or alimony payments, we can discuss filing for a modification of the court order, to prevent a contempt charge. If you are unemployed, it is important to keep records of your employment searches to show evidence that you are attempting to follow the court ordered payment schedule. We can skillfully navigate you through the legal process and proceedings. At C.J. Hilliard Law, P.A., our focus is to provide compassionate representation in your time of need. Call us for a fifteen minute free phone consultation or a low cost office appointment.