What Is Contempt and What Are the Penalties for Contempt?

In the middle of a stressful divorce, it’s a comforting thought to believe that once the judge issues an order, everything will be OK. Visitation will be set, child support will be agreed upon, and life will begin to move forward.

But, what if your ex has other plans? What if child support isn’t being paid? What if the kids are being kept away from you, even during your scheduled visitation time? What if you can’t even communicate with the kids on the phone or via text?

What Is Contempt?

Contempt is simply a willful failure to follow a court order. Many times, contempt in family court stems from a failure to pay child support, which obviously can lead to fees, incarceration, or both. Other times, contempt can stem from interference with visitation or custody. This can also result in fees, changes to existing custody orders, or even arrest or imprisonment. It’s very important if you feel like you might be at risk of contempt to contact a lawyer immediately. Contempt is viewed as a willful violation of court orders – notice the keyword, willful. Situations where you might have violated the order, though not willfully, might include:

  • I couldn’t visit with the children due to a mandatory overtime shift at work.
  • I was in the hospital having emergency surgery and missed a child support payment.
  • I lost my job and didn’t have enough money for basic expenses, so I missed child support and alimony.
  • In situations like these, you need to contact an attorney right away.

Likewise, if you are experiencing the following problems, you should contact an attorney so they can file a contempt petition on your ex:

  • You are not receiving child support or alimony in a timely fashion.
  • You have reason to believe your children are not being allowed to visit.
  • Your ex is not meeting their visitation or custody responsibilities.

Refusing To Allow Visitation

Visitation interference (when one parent refuses to make the child available for visits) is a very serious contempt violation. The parent may have control issues or may just want revenge on their ex. Visitation interference may take several forms, such as:

  • You are not receiving child support or alimony in a timely fashion.
  • You have reason to believe your children are not being allowed to visit.
  • Your ex is not meeting their visitation or custody responsibilities.

Any time a parent is not following a court order, either financially or with visitation agreements, the court will not be pleased and is likely to entertain a contempt petition. Failure to comply with a court order may result in relatively minor consequences (makeup visitation, parenting classes) or major consequences (fines, arrest, incarceration, and a criminal record).

If you are suspected of contempt, or you are the victim of someone who is in contempt, it is vital that you do two things: Document everything and talk to an attorney. Because the consequences can be life-altering and severe, it is essential that you take these two steps. Family Matters Law Group has advocated for families in Henry, Clayton, and Fayette counties for many years. We have experience dealing with parents who would defy the court and act in contempt. We’ve also successfully helped clients who have been accused of contempt but were not acting willfully. We can help you. Simply contact us using our convenient online contact form. Let us hear your story.

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