Enforcing Your Rights: Understanding Motions of Contempt

The term “contempt” is the legal definition applied to the scenario where a person deliberately disobeys a court order. Finding someone in contempt of family law is a way for the court to implement child support, spousal assistance, custody, and visitation orders breached by a party.

Common Examples of Contempt Cases

Either the action or inaction of a person can lead to contempt for him/her. Some prevalent instances of contempt that typically occur during or after divorce proceedings include:

  • Violation of a restraining order
  • Non-payment of child support
  • Non-payment of spousal support
  • Non-participation in visitation as requested in the parenting plan
  • Failure to return the child to the other parent at the end of the custody period

How Contempt Is Proved in Family Court

You must demonstrate four elements in order to demonstrate to the court that the other party is in contempt. 

  1. You must demonstrate that a valid written court order is in effect signed by the judge. For example, the order may be drafted by the judge in a pre-dissolution hearing or an order pursuant to the Marital Settlement Agreement parties. 
  2. You have to demonstrate the other person’s knowledge of the court order. You can demonstrate this by the other party was present in court when the order was provided, that the other party was served with the order with a record of service, or by demonstrating that the other party followed the court order for some time and then suddenly stopped.
  3. You must demonstrate that the other party was able to fulfill the order. It should be noted, however, that this aspect does not apply to instances of child support. 
  4. You must demonstrate that the other party has voluntarily failed to comply with the order.

What the Court Does If It Finds a Person in Contempt

The aim of filing a contempt action against another party is to get them to comply with the court order. Thus, if a court finds your ex in contempt there are several remedies depending on the type of action (or inaction) your ex took. Some remedies include community service, imprisonment, and fines.

Alternatives to Filing a Motion of Contempt

There are several options for the court to file a contempt action. For example, it may be worth trying alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, with your ex rather than returning to court. This may lower expenses and solve your problem faster. Another alternative is to have your attorney write a letter to your ex outlining how he or she is in contempt of a court order and request timely action to correct the violation(s) on his or her part. A third alternative is to follow a collection action if an order to pay assistance has been violated. Collection activities include allocation of wages, foreclosure, or garnishment.

Contact a Lawyer

To learn more about contempt, contact us the Law Offices of Kayleene H. Writer, PLC. We are passionate about helping people while they are going through their difficult family law situation. Give us a call today at (415) 805-9069.