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What you need to know about seeking a contempt finding

On Behalf of | Apr 19, 2022 | Divorce

Court orders are supposed to be powerful, compelling people to act in a certain way. That’s why you might feel relieved once your divorce is resolved and the dust settles. Yet far too often individuals fail to abide by court orders. This can leave you without the financial resources that you expect and need, or it might damage your time and your relationship with your child.

That’s why it’s important that you know what to do when your former spouse is in violation of a court order. One option at your disposal is to seek a contempt finding.

How do you request that your former spouse be held in contempt?

It all starts with a motion for rule to show cause, which is essentially a request that the court order the former spouse into court to explain why he or she shouldn’t be held in contempt. This motion needs to be thorough and detailed, addressing each of the following:

  • The order that was violated: First, you’ll have to identify the specific court order that was violated. This order must be active, and it must be directed at your other spouse. Your motion should specify when this order was issued and what, exactly, it ordered the other spouse to do.
  • Your former spouse was aware of the order: Your former spouse can’t be held accountable for violating a court order if he or she didn’t even know that it existed. So, demonstrate that he or she was on notice.
  • Your former spouse’s noncompliance: Once you’ve identified the order, then you need to specify how and when your spouse violated that order. You need to be as detailed as possible here, specifying the date, time, and context surrounding the noncompliance, if possible.
  • The willfulness of the noncompliance: In order for a court to find your former spouse in contempt, it will have to find that he or she not only failed to abide by a court order, but that he or she did so willfully. This means that you have to demonstrate your former spouse’s intent, which can be difficult to do. Consider how you can show that your spouse was capable of complying with the court order but still failed to do so.

What will happen at court?

Once you file your motion, the court will set it for a hearing. At this hearing, your former spouse will have the ability to explain the situation to the judge and justify his or her noncompliance with the court’s order. If your former spouse is able to convince the judge that he or she didn’t violate a court order, or if he or she is sufficiently apologetic and quickly purges himself or herself of the contempt, then the court may not issue a contempt finding. But if you have sufficient evidence on your side that addresses the elements mentioned above, then you have a strong argument for a contempt finding.

What happens if your spouse is held in contempt?

If your spouse is found to be in contempt, then the court can do a couple of things. The most severe action that the court can take is sending your former spouse to jail. But the court can also issue a fine or even order community service in some instances. In most cases, the penalty is meant to force the parent into compliance with the court’s order rather than punish him or her.

Do you need help with your divorce’s court orders?

You worked hard to secure the existing court orders that came out of your divorce. And for your life to have some sort of stability, you need those orders to be obeyed. When your former spouse strays from those orders, then your life can be negatively impacted.

Yet far too many individuals let these violations slide, hoping that the former spouse will eventually comply with the court’s orders. These individuals may simply want to avoid more conflict. But don’t let yourself be taken advantage of by your former spouse. Hold him or her accountable when necessary. If you’d like help in doing so, then you may need an aggressive family law advocate on your side.