Contempt of Court
In a family law case, there are an array of legal remedies that can be sought when one spouse fails to follow court orders. One of those remedies is filing an action for Contempt of Court. Most courts take the judgments or orders that they have issued seriously. Failure to follow court orders can lead to severe consequences. In a contempt situation, it can even lead to jail time. While not every violation of court orders in your divorce or family law case warrants legal action, many do. The experienced attorneys at the Family Law Advocates have years of experience helping people enforce court orders. Conversely, we’re also there to help clients accused of contempt of court. Regardless of which side of a case you are on, we can help with the sound advice and zealous representation you need to protect your interest.Contempt of Court and Family Law Case
Contempt of court may not always be the right way to proceed. Florida statute offers various remedies for enforcing your court orders, including specific statutes designed to address violations of support orders and parenting plans. However, contempt of court may be one of the most effective tools for getting a person to comply and deterring future violations.
When speaking of “contempt of court” in a family law setting, most attorneys are generally referring to “civil contempt.” With civil contempt, there are various things the court can do to remedy the situation caused by the violation of court orders. Specifically, the court can issue remedial orders, issue a fine, award attorney fees, hand down sanctions, and incarcerate the contemnor until they comply. When someone is jailed for violating a court order, the court is required to set forth a “purge clause,” detailing what specifically must be done to purge the contempt. In essence, the violating party holds the key to their jail cell and can be released upon compliance.
Contempt of court is something that must be pled with particularity in terms of the allegations. The court order must be clear and concise. There may be multiple hearings throughout the process, and the accused is afforded certain rights and a chance to rectify the situation.
The essential elements of a contempt of court motion are the existence of a valid court order, the accused’s knowledge of the court order, and a willful violation of the court order, despite an ability to comply. Proving these elements is not always easy, and having an attorney can greatly increase your chances of successfully litigating your contempt action. If you have been accused of contempt, having an experienced family law attorney to defend you and guide you can mean the difference between freedom and jail.
By far, the most common issues raised in contempt proceedings relate to a failure to pay child support or alimony. Not every failure to pay equates to contempt, such as when someone cannot pay due to job loss or injury. The specific facts of each case matter. Generally, contempt of court is not an effective tool for dealing with violations of a property settlement or divorce judgment regarding property transfers. Because Florida law does not allow jail time for payment of certain obligations or “debt,” a judge’s hands may be tied when dealing with marital property transfers. Violations of parenting plans and child custody orders can also lead to a contempt of court action. Given all the intricacies that arise when court orders are violated, it is best to consult with a family law attorney before proceeding to court.Discuss Your Contempt of Court Issues with an Experienced Attorney
As you can see, a contempt of court case is not to be taken lightly. Whether you need a family law attorney to bring a contempt action against a spouse who has violated the court’s orders, or you are the one having to defend yourself against a contempt action for violating the court’s orders, we can help.
We have years of family law experience representing clients just like you. Whether you live in Tampa, St. Petersburg, or Clearwater, we are local and convenient to you. Give us a call to schedule your initial consultation today.