What Is Contempt of Court?

Going through the process of obtaining a court order that obligates the other party to do something like pay alimony or child support can be a trying time. If, after all of that, the other person fails to comply with the court order, it can be downright exasperating. Luckily, there are tools at the court’s disposal that are meant to help ensure that a person complies with a court order. One such tool is holding a person in contempt of court.

Contempt of Court

Being held in “contempt of court” means that a person has refused to obey a judge’s order or mandate. In order to be held in contempt of court, there must, therefore, be a valid court order in place. It must be shown that the party subject to the court order requirements knew of the court order, had the ability to comply with the order, and willfully refused to comply. He or she must also be notified of the contempt of court hearing. Lastly, the judge must find that contempt would be an appropriate remedy for the violation that occurred.

In family law, there can be many reasons for petitioning the court to hold a person in contempt of court. For instance, a person may be held in contempt of court in family court because he or she:

  • Failed to make court-ordered child support payments
  • Failed to make court-ordered spousal support (alimony) payments
  • Failed to make reasonable efforts to comply with a court-ordered parenting plan
  • Failed to comply with a divorce court order to deliver property to their former spouse
  • Violated a family restraining order
  • Refused visitation set forth in a court-ordered parenting plan to their co-parent 
  • Failed to return the child to the co-parent after the court-ordered visitation period.

The purpose of contempt is to allow the court an enforcement mechanism when these types of violations occur. Thus, the consequences of being held in contempt will relate to what kind of violation occurred and work to push the violator to comply with the court order. The judge has fairly wide discretion regarding the consequences of being held in contempt of court. For instance, in order to get the party held in contempt to comply with the original court order, a judge may order the violator to:

  • Complete a parenting class
  • Have his or her wages garnished
  • Pay a fine
  • Attend future court hearings
  • Get counseling

More drastic measures may need to be taken should a party held in contempt continue to violate court orders. In severe cases, the violator may face a period of incarceration.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

If your former spouse or co-parent has failed to comply with a court order, you have legal options available that will help push them to do the right thing. The dedicated family law attorneys at the Orlando Family Team will discuss these options with you and counsel you on how best to proceed. Contact us today.