Legal Snack: Can I File For Contempt?

Legal Snacks are short videos from Family Matters Law Group that help to educate our clients about issues related to their case. By watching the videos, you are prepared to come to the office with some of your questions already answered. This means your office visit will be more productive and helpful.

In this month’s Legal Snack, Mrs. Edidiong Aaron, founder and owner of Family Matters Law Group, addresses one of the most commonly asked post-divorce questions: “Can I file for divorce?”

Let’s listen to what Mrs. Aaron has to say on this very important topic:

Key Questions From This Legal Snack

Mrs. Aaron answered two key questions in this video. They are:

  • What is contempt and who can file for it?
  • What are two common mistakes that can cost you the ability to file a contempt motion?

What is Contempt?

Contempt is a legal term that refers to someone’s willful disobedience of a court order. So, for example, if the court orders your spouse to pay child support each month, and your spouse decides he’s angry and doesn’t want to pay for a few months, that’s contempt. In this example, not only is your ex not doing what the court ordered, but it’s not by accident, either. They are deliberately choosing to not obey.

So, there have to be two standards met before you can file for contempt. The court order is not being followed AND there is willful disobedience. Missing a visitation or a payment by accident is probably not going to be seen as contempt by the court. (Notice, however, that missing multiple payments or visits makes it a lot easier to prove the actions are “willful”)

In general, you must file a contempt motion in the county that the original court order was given. An exception can be made if the defendant no longer lives in that county, in which case it may be preferable to file in the county of residence. Ask your attorney where the appropriate venue would be.

Two Common Mistakes

Mrs. Aaron points out two common mistakes that people make when they ask a lawyer to file a contempt motion. 

The first is known as a condition precedent. In this case, the condition would be the contempt action, and the precedent refers to an action that occurred before the alleged contempt. If the preceding action is your fault, you’re not going to win a contempt motion.

For example, your spouse misses picking the children up from school several days in a row. You get upset and ask your lawyer for a contempt violation. However, your lawyer discovers that due to an after school activity, the time that your children need to be picked up changed. You did not let your spouse know about the change, and they need some time to adjust their schedule.

In this case, you didn’t cover all your bases. It is less likely that your spouse is being irresponsible and more of a case of miscommunication. Make sure that you have done everything you need to do in order to keep your ex informed and in the loop, whether it be schedule changes or bills that need to be paid.

The second mistake is known as unclean hands. You can’t accuse someone of contempt if you are in contempt of yourself. 

For example, you accuse your spouse of missing child support payments. When you get to court, the judge finds out that you have been denying your spouse visitation privileges because you’re upset about the payments. In this case, you are going to lose your motion because you aren’t doing what you are supposed to be doing in the eyes of the court.

Make sure all your bases are covered and you are following all court orders before you ask to file for contempt.

Before You File For Contempt, Consult An Attorney

If you are having trouble with your ex-spouse, and you feel that a contempt filing is in order, the best thing you can do is discuss the matter with an attorney so that you know what your options are.

Family Matters Law Group has been fighting for families in the metro Atlanta area for years. If you need help with a contempt filing, let us know via phone or our convenient online contact form and we’ll set up a consultation. You’re not in this alone — we’re ready to hear your story and help you get the assistance that you need.