Contempt of court (often only referred to as contempt) is something that many people associate with doing something disrespectful or disruptive while physically in court. In family court contempt refers to any action done to deliberately violate a court order. Finding out that you are in contempt can often be surprising, but understanding what caused the contempt action can help you prepare to defend yourself. Understanding a contempt action in family court is also useful if you believe your former spouse has done something to deliberately violate a court order.
Types of Contempt in Family Court
There are five types of contempt that commonly occur in family court. These contempt actions are:
- Not paying court ordered child support
- Not paying court ordered alimony
- Violating a restraining order
- Not allowing another parent to visit during their ordered parenting time
- Not returning the child to the custodial parent at the end of a visit
While these are the types of contempt that frequently occur, they are not the only things that can happen in family court. During a divorce a parent who has moved but refuses to make mortgage payments or handle other types of financial responsibilities that the court found them responsible for could result in a contempt action.
Prior to the alleged party being found guilty of contempt, it must be proved that the action was willful. A person who purposefully and intentionally violated a court order is treated differently than someone who was unable to avoid the action. Before taking any action, a copy of the court order must be found so that it can be proved that the order being violated exists. Providing documentation that child support or alimony payments have stopped being paid is one way to prove contempt. In situations where parenting time is being denied or children are not being returned according to the agreed upon time, bringing a person to act as a witness is a way to prove that an order is being violated.
Punishments for Contempt
Filing to initiate a contempt action is meant to encourage the person to adhere to the court order in the future. There are several types of punishments given to a person who is found in contempt, and ultimately, that person is influenced by the severity of the action along with the judge’s decisions. Support order violations can result in wage garnishments while interference with visitation in Georgia can result in harsher penalties. When visitation is interfered with, a judge can order make up visitations, parenting classes, and payments to reimburse the affected parent for any expenses associated with the interference. For more serious and extended periods of interference, the judge may order fines or even imprisonment.
When to Contact an Attorney
Deciding how to handle being accused of contempt or whether you should file a contempt action against another party is not always easy. When you find yourself in either situation, contacting a family law contempt attorney is the best thing to do. A qualified attorney is able to help you prove that contempt occurred or can assist you in defending yourself. The attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum are able to provide you with the legal advice you need during this difficult time. We have offices conveniently located in Alpharetta, Lawrenceville, Cummings, and Marietta. Contact our law firm today at 678-736-7700 to schedule a consultation to discuss your unique situation.