If the judge made an order in your family law case, such as ordering your spouse to pay a certain sum as spousal support, and the responsible party isn't honouring the order, you can chose to file a contempt of court petition. This is a mechanism used by individuals through their attorneys to help enforce court orders. Read on for more insight about how petitions for contempt can affect cases involving family law.
What is contempt of court?
This is a scenario where an individual is fully aware of a court order but knowingly ignores or breaches its mandate.
Typical examples of contempt
If one spouse was ordered to pay child support in a divorce action and fails to act according to the court order, then he or she may be guilty of contempt.
In visitation cases, a spouse may be guilty of contempt if they refuse to permit visitation that was agreed in the parenting plan or if they fail to return the child back to the other spouse at the conclusion of the visitation period.
Generally, you must file a petition for contempt of court at the same court where the initial order was handed down. The moving party also may be expected to file an affidavit or declaration with the court. The family law attorney representing the moving party will include all the reasons showing adequate cause in the petition for the judge's approval and subsequently, a hearing date is set. Next, the moving party is expected to serve the accused person with the papers. This can be done through a face-to-face meeting, email or letter.
Both the moving party and the defendant will be present at the hearing to present their proof and defenses. The moving party has the burden of proof to clearly show the existence of a valid court order, the other party's knowledge of the order, the other party deliberately violating the court order and that the other party was served with the papers of the contempt hearing. On the other hand, the defendant may present a legal argument citing that the court order was no longer binding or the court order is vague and subject to diverse interpretations. Finally, the judge decides on the petition for contempt.
If you are in contempt of court, you may face a host of punishments. For instance, you may have to pay hefty fines or be locked up in prison. Moreover, in family law cases, the person found in contempt can be forced to take specific actions, including returning the child to the other spouse or completely desisting from visitation.