Contempt involves holding someone accountable for failing to abide by a court order. Common bases for contempt include non-payment of child support or alimony, failure to deliver property as ordered, or a failure to abide by a court-ordered parenting time schedule. Sanctions and jail time may be involved.

Your divorce proceeding or decree may involve many court orders. These are legally binding agreements that can lead to harsh penalties if either party chooses not to adhere to them. After spending time, money, and energy on a court proceeding, it can be frustrating when your partner refuses to cooperate. Is there anything you can do to help enforce court orders? The simple answer: yes.

  1. Document Everything.

The first thing you should do after a spouse or other family member refuses to comply with a court order is to remind him or her of the context of your agreement. Make these reminders in writing, in case you decide to pursue legal action. It also helps to keep a diary of court order violations–for example, dates and times, supported by comments about what happened.

  1. Keep Your Cool.

It doesn’t help to berate, belittle, or use anger when talking to a family member about a court violation. You should also take care to keep the matter private–in other words, don’t take to Facebook or Twitter and complain about your ex. Online rants are typically considered admissible evidence in court, and you don’t want to sabotage your own efforts by seeming petty. Take a deep breath and use logic, not emotion, to deal with court violations.

  1. Get a Qualified Attorney Involved

When written warnings don’t help, you may need to take further legal action to resolve the matter. Unfortunately, not everyone will comply with a court order, despite its legally binding status. You may need to hire a Minnesota family law attorney to formulate a demand letter, which stipulates what you’re seeking (e.g. missed child support payments) and possible legal action (e.g. filing a motion for wage garnishment).

If filing a motion becomes necessary, you can also petition the court to have your ex-spouse or family member pay your legal fees. Don’t let cost detract you from contacting a qualified family law attorney.

If you’re getting the runaround from an ex regarding visitation, spousal maintenance, or child support, don’t let the situation continue. Contact the experienced family law attorneys at Brown Law Office for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

Divorce proceedings are often contentious. When one party to the litigation refuses to act in accordance with a court order, that person can be found to be in “contempt.” Under Minnesota law, this process is tightly structured, and it follows exacting documentation requirements.

What are Contempt Motions?

During the course of a divorce proceeding, the judge will issue orders to address matters such as temporary custody of the children or intermediate support payments. The divorce decree itself is a court order that can establish:

•    Parenting time provisions;
•    Child support or spousal maintenance (alimony) payments;
•    Out-of-state relocation permission; or
•    Distribution of real or personal property.

When one party violates these orders, he/she can be held in contempt of court. To initiate this process, the attorney representing the spouse harmed by the refusal to follow the divorce degree will file a Motion of Contempt.

How Contempt Motions Work

A valid contempt motion must be filed with a court that presided over the divorce proceedings. This motion must state how the other party violated a directive of the judge. Once this motion is filed, an “Order to Show Cause” is delivered to the other party.

A hearing is then held, and the person who allegedly violated the judicial order has the opportunity to demonstrate that he or she did comply or had a good reason not to do so. Both sides can testify and submit evidence at this hearing.

If the person is found to be in contempt of court, sanctions can include: fines, fees, transfer of property, jail time, or any penalty that the court deems appropriate.

If the judge orders the person to serve time in jail, that person may request a chance to “cure the problem.” If he or she fails to do so, the other party can request a Revocation Hearing to have the offender jailed. This person will remain in jail until he or she cures the contempt by paying child support or addressing whatever court order was violated.

The court is responsible for controlling the conduct that occurs within its doors, but also has to deal with issues outside of the courtroom when it comes to family matters.

It is typical for a contempt motion to be made in a family law case when one party has violated an order of the court, such as an order to pay child support, spousal maintenance, or a parenting time arrangement.

The contempt rules are rather strict, in an effort to motivate individuals to comply with court orders. A particular action (or inaction) may constitute contempt if the following criteria are met:

  • The court must have jurisdiction over the case in order to file a motion; and
  • It must be properly alleged by the non-offending party that offending party has violated the directive of the judge.

When a contempt motion is filed against a litigant, that person must show up to a hearing and prove that they did comply with the court order, or have an adequate explanation as to why they violated it. An “Order to Show Cause” mandates such an appearance.

If the individual is found in contempt of court, a conditional penalty may be handed down by the judge. Sanctions can include fines, fees, transfer of property, jail time, or any penalty that the court deems appropriate.