Contempt can only come into play after a court has issued judgments, orders or decrees to govern the behavior of the parents, which it can do at any point during the divorce proceedings. Once a court has issued such decrees, it is important for you to comply with them to the best of your ability and, at the same time, to take note of any potential violations on the part of your former spouse. Courts take it seriously when a parent disregards court orders.
If an attorney and his client can produce evidence that the opposing party has willfully disregarded a court decree, then they can “make a motion” or “move” for a contempt ruling. If the court finds contempt has occurred, it can hand down new or modified order binding the parent whom it has found to be in contempt.
The terms of a divorce settlement represent binding legal obligations. Any deviation from child custody arrangements, time-sharing schedules, or child and spousal support payments must be approved by the court. If your ex-spouse owes child or spousal support or if you are being denied time-sharing with your children, it may be necessary to bring a contempt motion against the other parent. Depending on the circumstances of your case, a contempt or enforcement action could lead to garnished wages, seizure of property, even jail.
To find a party guilty of contempt, the court cannot simply conclude that the accused party did not act in accordance with the decree. The court must also conclude that the accused party did have the ability to comply and willfully violated the order.
It’s important to remember oral “agreements” between parents are rarely enforcable and little weight in court. If you and your ex-spouse agree to change the terms of your existing court order, custody arrangements, or support payments without approval by the court could result in an unanticipated outcome.
If you have questions regarding an enforcement or contempt issue, Contact the Law Firm of Kenneth D. Morse today.