Unfortunately, after the Court has entered an Order, some issues still arise when one party fails to abide by said Order. We know how frustrating this can be, but SOMETHING CAN BE DONE!
In these situations, your best course of action is to file what’s called a Complaint for Contempt.
Contempt actions are the means by which the Court enforces its Orders. Once the Court has issued any ruling, both parties are bound by its language and if either party fails to abide by it, they can be found in contempt.
Those who are found to be in contempt can face a wide variety of consequences, including but not limited to:
- having to pay the money owed
- having to pay the opposing party’s reasonable legal fees and/or sanctions
- or even getting sentenced to jail time
There are countless instances where a Complaint for Contempt would be appropriate. Some examples of which include the following:
- One party refusing to pay the required amount of child support or alimony as ordered by the Court (or if they are continuously making late payments)
- One parent refusing to abide by the parenting schedule as set forth in the Court’s order
- One parent refusing to pay the correct amount of extracurricular or uninsured medical expenses for the children
- One party letting their health or life insurance lapse
Essentially, any time that a party violates any aspect of the Court’s order, they can be found in contempt. This is why it is vital to read every single word of your Agreement and any Orders of the Court. It’s also wise to speak with an attorney to ensure you understand each party’s obligations.
What else should you know about filing a Complaint for Contempt?
In order to be successful in a contempt case, you must prove that the opposing party deliberately violated “clear and unequivocal language” in the Court Order.
Prior to bringing your Complaint for Contempt, it’s imperative that you remain organized and have notes and proof regarding each and every instance where the opposing party violated the Court’s Order. For example, if the opposing party missed several support payments or failed to pay the correct amount, you should have records of each instance this occurred, including bank statements and any communication between the parties involving the missed or late payments. If the opposing party failed to abide by the parenting plan, you should keep all communication where the issue is discussed. Remember, you should ALWAYS keep everything in writing!
You should also know that while you do not necessarily have to file a Complaint for Contempt days after the contempt occurred, you should not wait TOO long. Waiting months or even years to bring the matter before the Court may result in a less favorable outcome.
It’s also important to note that even if you do not plan on filing a contempt in the immediate future, you should still keep detailed records of any instances where the Court’s Order was violated. Make sure you maintain all relevant documentation and make note of the date, time and the exact circumstances that occurred. This can only HELP you if you decide to file a Complaint for Contempt in the future.
You should also know that even if you do not know where the opposing party resides, you should STILL file a Complaint for Contempt. This is VERY IMPORTANT in order to preserve your rights.
One last issue of note is that you CANNOT file a Complaint for Contempt if you are also in contempt of the Court’s Order. This is called having “unclean hands” and would be a viable defense for the opposing party in any contempt action. Again, this is why it is SO important to make sure you understand ALL of your obligations under the Court’s Order.
Dealing with someone who consistently violates the Court’s Orders can be extremely aggravating, but WE ARE HERE TO HELP! Our firm has successfully handled countless contempt matters and are available to assist you throughout this difficult process.
If you’d like to schedule a free initial consultation, please contact our office. We look forward to working with you!