When a court renders a final divorce decree, it retains the power to enforce all aspects of this decree. Thus, both parties are obliged to obey the established parts of the decree, whether they pertain to child or spousal support, visitation, division of assets, etc.
If either party violates this decree without first notifying the court for modification, that party is said to be in contempt of court.
There are two types of contempt: willful and non-willful contempt. The first type, or willful contempt, is found when the person owing a duty has the ability to comply with the court’s order but chooses not to. A finding of willful contempt is a serious charge and may be met with incarceration as well as financial penalty. One of the most common financial penalties is paying for the other party’s attorney fees associated with bringing the contempt action.
Non-willful contempt is found when the person who has violated the court order has done so due to circumstances beyond their control. Since a party can file for a modification of a court order, it is important to note that this is not a way out of court-ordered duties, unless the circumstances really were beyond control and could not have been modified.
If your spouse has violated the court order, you can file a motion for contempt of court. The motion must state what areas of the final decree have been violated and why the party should be held in contempt. The burden of proof in such a case lies on the injured party.
If you have been found in contempt, you could be ordered to immediately comply or to comply within a certain time frame. If you do not do so, there will most likely be an order for jail time from the court. However, every state has grounds that would allow a release from or an adjustment of jail time. Some of these grounds include:
– No one to care for dependent children
– Possible loss of job due to jail time
– Physical/emotional disabilities
– Proven inability to comply with the court order
Whether you have been charged with or accused of contempt or are dealing with a party that is not obeying court orders, it is imperative that you hire an attorney who can help protect you and your families’ rights.
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