Once a final decree for divorce is issued by a court, the terms must be met otherwise the court retains the power to enforce it. This pertains to all aspects of the order and includes alimony, child support, visitation, or property division.
If one of the two parties fails to comply with any of their legally binding obligations, they can be held in contempt of court and criminal charges can be brought against them.
Proceedings for a motion of contempt
When an ex-spouse violates any part of a divorce decree, the other person can file a motion for contempt of court through an attorney or by filing the necessary forms with the relevant court.
In the motion, mention must be made of the parts of the final decree that were violated. Contempt must be proven with evidence by the person filing for it.
Proving willful and intentional contempt is not difficult in most divorce agreements because both parties have agreed to the order during the divorce proceedings.
However, the accuser must prove that the other party:
- Was aware of the court order
- Intentionally violated the court order even though they could comply with it
- Did not have valid cause for violating it
Inability to comply
Sometimes the spouse being sued for contempt may not be able to comply with the order. One example is if they are behind in child support payments because they are unemployed. In this case, they present an affirmative defense to the court and must be able to support their claim, otherwise face the consequences for violating the divorce decree.
If one of the parties cannot comply with the divorce orders, they shouldn’t continue ignoring them. A change can be requested from the court, and the judge will consider it. If the request for modification is warranted, the judge will agree and amend the divorce decree. If the request is monetary, the judge will carefully consider the financial situation before deciding. Moreover, in matters concerning the children, judges always consider what is in their best interest.
Repercussions of not following orders
Depending on the severity of the contempt, there are various repercussions that judges may decide on, and it is up to their discretion. Usually, anything relating to children, including non-payment of child support will be more severely punishable.
Nonpayment of child support
When someone cannot pay child support, their ex-spouse cannot prevent them from seeing their children, and someone cannot stop paying child support if there are issues with parenting time.
The repercussions can be that the court can rule that money be taken directly from the offender’s paycheck. It can also prevent them from selling any property, and can also stop them from renewing their driver’s license.
Any disagreements with parenting orders or any uncertainties on how to deal with certain circumstances should be mediated if the two parties cannot find common ground. However, if any part of the parenting order is continuously ignored, then the consequences can be severe and can include a fine, jail time, or even both.
Failure to exercise parenting time
Parenting times which are continuously missed can cause the other person unnecessary stress and financial pressure, especially if they are losing wages, having to pay for child care, or have accrued traveling expenses.
The repercussions for this may include that the other party must place money or property as security. They may also be asked to report to the court. The judge may also suggest counseling or mediation. He may also rule which of the two parties has to pay for these and any other services required to resolve the matter.
Denial of parenting time
A parent can only be denied parenting time if there are very serious reasons, otherwise, it is considered wrongful by the court. The court can rule mediation, counseling, and extra time with the children to make up for the lost parenting time.
The judge can also grant the person denied parenting time money for lost wages and travel expenses incurred. Penalties of up to $5,000 can be imposed and these may have to be paid to the other person, children, or the court.
Objection to a move
When one parent needs to move, they need to give the other parent 60-days’ notice. If the other parent does not agree with the move, they can object by applying to court.
If the court finds intent on the part of the moving parent to not bring the children back, they can order them to pay security or give up their passport or those of the children. They may also be asked to transfer property or money to a court-appointed trustee. Finally, the court can also rule that the children do not leave the area.
Uphold or bring to court
A court order is legally binding and both parties need to uphold it or face the repercussions. They may also be forced to pay the legal expenses and any other expenses resulting from their contempt.