Contempt in Family Law Cases

In many court cases and in most family law cases, a court will order certain actions by the parties. In other words, the court will tell the parties that they must do or not do certain things. Contempt of court, or simply “contempt,” is the act of ignoring the court’s direction. A person commits contempt when he or she violates a court order. The court order can be a jury verdict, a judge’s decree, or an agreement made by the parties that has been entered into a final decree and judgment.

Criminal and Civil Contempt

A person can be held in either criminal or civil contempt. Civil contempt is the more common form of contempt. Generally family law cases will only result in civil contempt, not criminal. In order to hold a person in contempt, the court must find that there has been a “willful” refusal to comply with a court’s order. In family law cases, some of the most common instances where contempt is either found or alleged are as follows:

  • One party’s failure to pay attorney fees after being ordered to do so;
  • One party’s failure to pay child support and/or alimony after being ordered to do so;
  • One party’s failure to sign any documents necessary to facilitate the transfer of property;
  • One party’s failure to continue to provide a child with healthcare benefits after being ordered to do so;
  • Failure to follow child custody and/or visitation orders; and
  • One party’s failure to surrender property or allow access to property after being ordered to do so.

To learn more about the law in Georgia as it pertains to contempt and family law, click here. Being found in contempt for failure to pay child support or alimony is generally the most common form of contempt found in family law cases. See this article from the August Chronicle about a man arrested for failure to pay $199,675 in alimony.

Purge of the Violation

Once a party is found to be in contempt, the offender can hope to “purge” himself or herself of the violation. The court will likely impose some sanction on the offender. Sanctions can include monetary fines, payment of any and all money due, and imprisonment for a definite period of time. While these are some of the potential outcomes, it is not an exclusive list. A party can file a motion from contempt against another party in a case when they believe that party is in violation of a court order. If you are filing such a motion or you are facing such a motion from an opposing party, it is important that you have the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.

If you or someone you know is involved in a family law matter, call our office to find out how we can help you assert your rights and ensure that you are not found in contempt. The attorneys at Edwards & Associates can also help you pursue a motion of contempt against any non-conforming party.