Filing a contempt action in family court can force a former spouse or domestic partner to abide by a court ruling regarding alimony, child support, or child custody arrangements. Contempt actions are less time consuming than initial divorce or custody hearings and are often heard by the judge who issued the court order that is not being upheld. While contempt actions are viewed as powerful legal tools that can force compliance, not every hearing goes according to plan. There are ways a contempt motion can backfire causing you more stress instead of providing a solution to your problem.
Error Creates a Bad Impression
Before filing a motion of contempt, you should always carefully review the original order with the help of an attorney. It is possible that you misunderstood the terms of the agreement and do not actually have grounds to file a contempt motion. If you file the motion because of an error not only have you wasted money on an unnecessary filing, you also run the risk of being criticized by the judge. Later, if you need to file a contempt order for a real violation, you may find yourself under additional scrutiny at future hearings because your judge remembers the previous erroneous filing.
A filing fee is not always the only expense associated with a contempt motion. If you have asked your attorney to represent you during the hearing, expect to pay legal fees in addition to the actual filing fees. Even if the filing fees are waived because of your income amount, there are lost wages, parking fees, and other expenses to consider. Things can become more expensive if the judge hearing your motion feels that the claim was erroneous or malicious. Depending upon the severity of your situation and history of the case, you may find yourself responsible for paying your ex-spouse’s legal fees.
Changes in the Order
There are times when a person does not comply with a court order because he or she is unable to do so. A contempt motion is not supposed to be used to punish a person, it is supposed to motivate him or her to comply and provide an opportunity to explain his or her inability to comply. If your former spouse is able to prove that the violation was not willful, he or she may not be held in contempt and could receive instructions regarding modification which could lead to a reduction in your child support or alimony. Also, if your ex accuses you of withholding visitation or otherwise violating the order, you could find yourself making explanations of your own.
Contact Your Attorney for Advice
Prior to initiating a contempt hearing, talk to a family law attorney about your situation. A contempt lawyer can answer your questions and help you determine if contempt is the best option based on your situation. The attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum are ready to provide you with advice that addresses your unique circumstances. Contact one of our Atlanta area locations today to schedule your consultation.