Unfortunately, no every provision in a court ordered is obeyed by both parties. If a party to a family law case is failing to comply with a court order, you may need to file a Motion for Contempt.
Most family law orders contain provisions that address at least one of the following issues:
- Child support
- Time sharing
In order for a party to be held in contempt of court for failing to follow the terms of a court order, you must first file a Motion for Contempt with the Clerk of Court and send a copy to the other party.
The next step is a hearing on the motion. At the hearing on the Motion for Contempt, you must show that the other party has the ability to comply with the court order and is refusing to do so.
For example, at a contempt hearing, both parties might agree that the father is not paying child support as ordered. The father would likely not be in contempt if his failure to pay child support is the result of a recent job loss. However, the father would likely be in contempt if his failure to pay child support is because he is having a hard time paying his other bills. I have heard judges tell many parents that the only bill they must pay before paying child support is taxes.
The penalty for contempt is typically either the payment of attorney fees, jail, or both. The amount of attorney fees paid in a contempt case depends on the amount of work performed. Typically, judges give a party in contempt the opportunity to “purge” the contempt by paying part (or all) of the unpaid support rather than go to jail.
In order for the judge to put a party in jail, the judge must find that the non-paying party has the ability to pay but is refusing. As a result, the non-paying party can get out of jail by paying. Obviously, this is easier said than done.
Serious complications arise when the judge finds that a non-paying party has the ability to pay even though that party does not actually have the money to pay the child support. This can happen in a situation where the parent that is ordered to pay child support is underemployed (making less at their job than the court thinks they should be making) or unemployed for a period longer than the judge thinks is reasonable.