Contempt of Court
Contempt of Court in Methuen
When a divorce is finalized, the parties will be required to comply with court orders. These court orders can involve child custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support. If you or your ex-spouse ignores or violates the terms set by a court order, this is known as being in contempt of court. The punishment for contempt of court can include paying a fine, jail time, and/or the loss of your driver's license or passport. The threat of these punishments is usually enough to encourage the person in contempt to make up for his or her violation.
At DiBella Law Offices, P.C., we understand that this situation can be very stressful for you and your family. Our Methuen divorce lawyer can file a motion for contempt on your behalf. With offices in Boston, Methuen, and Burlington, we handle cases in Massachusetts. Contact us online today to learn more.
Our Methuen family law attorney provides dedicated legal representation to help our clients confront and resolve their problems so they can move forward. Contempt is generally not available to obtain property settlement payments unless they are directly related to child support or spousal support.
An individual may be held in contempt if he or she does any of the following:
- Refuses to allow visitation as stated in the custody agreement
- Refuses to return a child or children at the end of a visitation
- Fails to comply with the visitation or custody schedule
- Fails to pay child support
- Fails to pay spousal support
Issuing contempt of court is a process that takes several steps. If your spouse has violated a court order, you should:
- Figure out why. If there is a reasonable cause for your ex-spouse not paying alimony or child support, such as a recent severe illness, accident, or loss of job, these issues can be settled out of court. In this case, the terms of your agreement can be modified between you and your spouse to accommodate the changes. The best way to do this is through your lawyers - the courts cannot enforce agreements made directly with your spouse.
- If your spouse is outright refusing to comply with his or her side of the agreement, the next step is to bring this to court. To do this, you will have to fill out a complaint of contempt, which includes the order being broken and a summary of facts that prove your spouse has not been fulfilling the order.
- Once the judge accepts the complaint, he or she may schedule a hearing regarding the validity of your complaint. If your complaint is valid, this is followed up with a trial.
- Before the trial, you might need to conduct an investigation, or discovery, to find additional proof that your spouse is in the wrong. Methods of discovery include depositions (questioning under oath) and asking for physical evidence such as contracts or records. Both parties must agree on what kinds of discovery are valid; if neither of you can agree, a judge will decide.
Sometimes the opposite is the case, and your ex-spouse may file a motion of contempt against you. If this happens:
- After receiving a complaint for contempt, fill out an answer to the complaint. If your spouse’s reasons for the complaint are incorrect and you did obey the court order, explain what really happened. If you did not obey the court order, write down your reasons for doing so. Be specific and detailed in both instances. Mail a copy before it is due, and send a copy to your spouse and lawyer as well.
- Show up for your hearing on time. Respecting the court by being punctual puts you in a favorable light. Be polite to the judge, as well as everyone else in the courtroom.
- Bring documents as evidence, and, if possible, bring witnesses as well. These will help confirm your story and establish a more detailed picture.
A successful contempt action will result in the noncompliant party being required to comply with court orders. For example, if your ex-spouse has failed to pay child support, he or she will be forced to pay support and may have to pay legal fees pertaining to the current case. In some rare instances the person in contempt may face jail time.
The best defense against being held in contempt is to avoid such a possibility in the first place. Thinking a few steps ahead can reduce unneeded stress:
- Keep a record of all of your support payments. This way, if your spouse threatens you with contempt of court, you will have plenty of evidence to prove that you are not skipping out on your end of the agreement.
- File a motion or a complaint for modification to change the current court orders. Do this as soon as you are aware of the need to do so, before you miss visitations or payments. Be sure to establish your reasoning for the changes, which must be significant (such as unemployment or an accident) in order to be acceptable. If you have a low income, the state of Massachusetts offers an online interview system to make the process easier.
- Hire an attorney who understands your circumstances and knows the system. Proving your situation and pushing for a modification may be more stressful than you expect.
At DiBella Law Offices, P.C., our experienced family law attorney will look out for your best interests and give you peace of mind. To discuss whether a court order has been violated and how you can take action to protect your rights, speak with our experienced legal team.
Schedule your free initial consultation by calling us now at (978) 327-5140. We offer Spanish translation services; servicios de traducción disponibles.