Attorney, Cordell & Cordell
A Motion for Contempt is a common occurrence in family law proceedings. In previous articles on contempt of court, I addressed the legal concept of contempt and outlined the conditions that must be met for contempt.
In this article, I will tell you the possible punishments for being found in contempt.
What are the consequences of being found in contempt?
Time to reach for that get out of jail free card you’ve been holding on to.
You might be thinking, “Really? They’re going to send me to jail just because I forgot to tell my ex about a couple of doctor appointments?”
Well, it is unlikely that the judge will send you to jail for being unable to communicate with your ex, but there could be other consequences which might hit you harder, whether in the wallet or in your time with your child.
If the court has determined that there was a valid order you knew about and failed to comply with, and you have the present ability to comply with that order, you are now in contempt.
The first thing the court will do is give you the opportunity to cure your contempt. This is mostly done for financial contempt. If you are able to pay some or all of the back support you had been withholding or pay off the debt assigned to you in your dissolution judgment, then it is unlikely the judge will send you to jail. You may have to pay a portion of your ex’s attorney’s fees for having to take you to court to enforce the order.
Remember that civil contempt was initially set up to coerce compliance of the parties, not punish them with confinement. If the contempt action can get you, or your ex, to do what they’re supposed to do, then it is unlikely jail time will be involved.
If, on the other hand, your ex has the ability to pay, and the court gives him/her the opportunity to cure their contempt but they refuse, it may be proper for the court to sentence them to some amount of jail time.
While this may seem counterproductive, the idea here is that they are not being sent to jail because they can’t pay, but because they can and just don’t want to pay. They will likely want to post bail and the court can use that money to repay the debt owed.
Outside of jail time, the court has within its discretion the ability to assess fines, award compensatory visitation, or even change custody arrangements when one party is unwilling to follow the court’s orders regarding legal or physical custody rights.
Typically a Court will only modify a parenting plan or custody arrangement if the contempt action is paired with a Motion to Modify.
Awarding compensatory visitation, or make-up days, is one way for you to regain time lost when the other party has withheld custody with just cause. Again, civil contempt is meant to coerce compliance, and most people will be willing albeit begrudgingly to comply with an order when their wallet starts taking a beating.
If you believe your ex spouse is flouting the court’s order to your or your child’s detriment, they may be in contempt. You should speak with an attorney in your area immediately to determine whether or not you have a remedy within the court system.
Read other articles in our contempt series:
Note: While this article addresses some of the issues that arise when preparing for a contempt proceeding, you may have additional questions regarding your own specific situation. You also may be from a state where the applicable laws differ significantly from Missouri, where I practice.
You should not rely on this article as establishing an attorney-client relationship, and you should contact an attorney in your area immediately if you need additional information or legal representation.
Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers in 17 states.
William Halaz is a Staff Attorney in the Arnold, Missouri office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. Mr. Halaz is licensed to practice in the state of Missouri. Mr. Halaz received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Southeast Missouri State University. Then continuing his education, received his Juris Doctor from St. Louis University’s School of Law.
22 comments on “Consequences of Contempt”
What happens when a government is held in contempt. I’m asking because I’m wondering if the trump administration can be held in contempt of court and what are they can they do about it.
My daughter’s mother has repeatedly violated the court order for custody/visitation over the last 11 months. Every week mon-thurs my daughter is with her mother and I have our daughter fri-mon morning. Some wknds she would keep our daughter just for spite and though I tried to have the police enforce the order, I was told to just go back to court. A few months ago I managed to save up enough to pay for an attorney, and the contempt papers and hearing date was served to her attorney. With the hearing date coming in 2 weeks, she still violated the order just this friday, causing a scene outside of our daughter’s school when I was there to pick her for my wknd. She forced our daughter into her vehicle and shoved me away all while teachers, students and parents were looking. I tried to get statements from the on lookers but no-one wanted to get involved (mostly women) who were teachers, parents outside of the school. After several tries, i did get a statement from one male parent. This is ridiculous for a father having to endure this, and I don’t think that the court system will ever punish a mother for these types of behaviors.
Shoffner, What happen to your case. Update?
I asked the mother of my children to share Mother’s day with me and the kids step mom for a few hours, her response was “No I am their real mom they will spend the whole day with me just like on Fathers day they will spend it with you”
We are going to court against each other because the mother isn’t stable and keeps moving far away and moving schools, even after the judge has told her “not to move schools again” so now that she moved so far away I don’t get my share time. *Every other week 7 days a week. Not because i was told by the judge just because I want my kids to be able to go to school on my week. only on my weekend I get to see my kids, Until court at the end of the mouth. So mother has them full time for right now, only because I can’t do the drive back and fourth 1 hour away to the school for drop off and pick up.
So she has them full time. And being very hatful to me and the kids step mom she does not want to share this holiday. Can I file contemp on her?
My ex husband has not paid his full amount of child support and alimony since we got the court order he’s balance is over 100,00o that’s owed to me it’s a hassle taking him back and forth to court I don’t know what to do anymore about him it’s so fustrating
My girlfriend is being transferred from another County where she has her 3rd contempt of child support if I pay some money on what’s owed can this keep her out of jail?
Yes. The. Kurt doesn’t care where the money comes from.
And why isn’t she paying for her children.. I would never be with a women who neglected her children. No excuses like she can’t afford it or the judgment isn’t fair. I hope they threw her in jail.
Help! My ex was ordered to pay child support through the clerk of courts. He never complied and is 7k in debt. I went to our local child support agency to enforce his payment. My question is, even if I have the department of revenue involved for enforcement, can I still take him to court for contempt for NEVER paying the court??
My ex is choosing which days I get to see my kids. We are supposed to alternate holidays but I’m not allowed to get them on the Fourth of July or Christmas. I work 6 days a week and only get sundays off so she says that I’m violating the agreement by not being able to have them the whole weekend. Also my days with them have to fall on a weekend that she gets paid if not I don’t get them.
My wife’s ex and biological father to her children has been ordered not to contact her unless it directly deals with the children. On nearly a daily basis he is contacting her about whatever he feels like. Only rarely does he have anything to say to or about the kids. Currently one of the big things is he is going on about having another child with my wife and we are both sick of it. It has been nearly two years and we need to be able to do something about it but the courts are hesitant to do anything about it no matter how much stress it places on us and our children. We have literally hundreds of contacts about nothing even related to the children. How do we go about getting the custody agreement to be enforced by the courts?
What happens if one party is ordered to surrender a child by the judge and found in contempt of court and they still do not comply? What would happen after that?
Can I ask for interest on a court ordered payment that my ex has not paid me? If so, is there a flat rate or a common interest rate that I could ask for? Thanks
My ex-husband was ordered to pay the credit card bill we had together 60 days from the assigned date of the mediation. He had the money at the time to do it did not do it, and 7 days before it’s supposed to be paid off he called and told me that he could not pay it. Then I come to find out that he has used the credit card in which we were both ordered not to use it and he did and wrapped it up pretty big, Is he in contempt?
My husband is in jail for back support if both the prosecutor and his ex wife agree on a amount can he get out
My significant other got divorced 2 years ago and his ex wife has not allowed him contact with his son. there is a parenting plan in order and he pays his child support but he had to move back home to washington shortly after their divorce because he lost his job (they lived together in Texas) i know how to file a contempt of court in Washington but what should he do since he live in Washington and she lives in texas? just have her served?
Contempt of court?? Deciding what to do. My ex daughter law is following the parenting plan filed with the court. he has refused to give my son the information on the children’s doctors and medical information still has not added my son to the school paperwork. Instead of communicating rationally it is a lot of cursing and name calling. And took a vacated order saying she could file her taxes with both kids instead of one each as it has been done since they were divorced. she filed an emergency motion saying the children were in danger and visitation needed changed. and added to that that she should be able to file both children on her income taxes. my son was never informed or served concerning that court date he immediately filed to an appeal, to modify since he was not informed of court. the judge immediately found that he was not served and vacated that order. She took the vacated order and filed her taxes with both children anyway. she has thumbed her nose at the entire parenting plan. now is in the process of moving and is not wanting to tell my son where she is moving too. My son works hard to be cordial and work things out but it is becoming impossible. Does he file contempt??
I filing contempt of cour on my ex-wife I pay on time it comes out of my check she tells my daughter to tell me no her and her boyfriend gang up on her at her mother’s house I don’t get to see my daughters she doesn’t bring them both when she is supposed to I fear for my kids the boyfriend of my ex has a very short fuse and threatened to kill me in front of my kids calls me dead beat dad in front of my kids very frustrated
Sounds like what is happening to my son now. Just file contemp against the mother of my son child keeping him from seeing her and has a new boyfriend now what was the outcome of your case how did it work out
Okay… what if the ex is financially unable to meet the requirements? He was just starting a new part time job when we divorced, making less than 1/10 of his former income, with which he had decided to take over all the house payments. Then he lost his job. We divorced with him agreeing not to change anything; he wanted the house. He git it, upon condition that he would refinance or sell it. Instead, he just stopped paying. A year later, he still has a crap job and cannot pay. The bank has started foreclosure and he moved and abandoned the house. Winter is coming and the pipes could freeze and burst with no power. What can I do? I am still on that mortgage.
Contempt order didn’t make it to court
I filed contempt on my ex for not changing her cable bill into her name, and left $2400 in my name in past due bills and failure to return equipment. I had my attorney file a contempt order but the ex resolved immediately after the contempt order, and we remanded the order. But I want my ex to pay the attorney fees because I don’t feel I should have too in order to force her to do what the decree/agreement stated.
So how do I go about filing contempt charges against my ex wife (without an attorney) if she left our kids with her mother, moved 2.5 hours away and didn’t tell me. I am suppose to have them for the summer and she has not complied with the court order. I pay my support on time every month and haven’t seen my son in 7 months and only see my daughter once every 2 months.