What should I do if my ex isn’t following a court order?
Court orders are not suggestions – they must be followed. If they are not being followed you may file a Complaint for Contempt, which tells the court the other party is not complying with a Court order.
What happens in a “contempt” action?
A Complaint for Contempt is a new legal case (even though it is often attached to, or consolidated into, an existing case). There are new deadlines that both parties have to follow, and then a court date to explain to a judge how a person is not following an order (or to explain why you haven’t followed the Order).
Is there a trial?
As with most court cases, trials in a contempt case are rare. The parties may reach an agreement on the issues, or the person who is not following the order may correct his/her actions. Often, a judge will hold a hearing on the issues, either with or without witnesses, and make a decision without holding a full trial.
What can happen if a person is found in contempt?
Courts can, and frequently do, impose harsh consequences for not following the court’s orders. A court can order a person to comply, impose sanctions (fines), order the party to pay the other side’s legal fees, and even send a person to jail.
What are frequent issues that are brought in a Complaint for Contempt?
Common issues in Complaints for Contempt include: not paying child support (or not paying the correct amount), not allowing visitation to occur, not providing documents on time, and failing to pay alimony. However, any order or judgment that is not followed can be the subject of a Complaint for Contempt.
What do you do if you have been served with a Complaint for Contempt?
You need to take the matter very seriously. As stated above, the consequences of a Complaint for Contempt can be very severe. You have a limited amount of time to file an Answer to the Complaint, and a hearing on the complaint is usually scheduled very quickly.
Can I represent myself at a Complaint for Contempt?
As with most cases, you are entitled to represent yourself during a Complaint for Contempt. However, if you are trying to prove the other party is in contempt, very specific facts must be shown. If you miss even one of the points, your case may not be successful. When defending against a Compliant for Contempt, the outcome of the case can often be very costly, and even result in jail time.
What if you can’t obey a Court Order?
If you have a legitimate reason for not being able to obey a Court Order, a Complaint for Modification (see next page) is often necessary. With this type of case, you explain to the court that your circumstances have changed, and you don’t have the ability to follow the Court Order. A typical example is not being able to pay the same amount of child support after a job loss. Please note, courts do not allow you to “self help” by just changing your support on your own, even if the other party agrees.
What if I can’t afford the several-thousand-dollar retainer many attorneys ask for in a Contempt Case?
That’s where I can help. I offer a wide range of advice and representation on contempt cases. . These can include helping by just reviewing some paperwork, advising on your rights before a mediation, or providing “second opinion” before a major decision needs to be made. If you feel uncomfortable going to court, I can represent you for a single hearing on the contempt. I offer these services on an affordable, flat-fee basis.
Many clients prefer to have an attorney throughout the entire case, but simply cannot afford to make a large up-front retainer payment. In these situations, I am happy to break the case down into several individual events and charge only for that service. This allows my clients to spread the cost of the contempt case out over time. It also means that you don’t have to be afraid to pick up the phone or send me an e-mail, because you won’t be getting a bill for that service.