Contempt of Court

While it would be nice if obtaining a Decree or Parenting Order guaranteed compliance from everyone involved, that is often not the case. Unfortunately, divorce and parenting cases often leave at least one of the former spouses or partners embittered and revengeful, and it is common for these individuals to take it out on their former spouse or former partner by ignoring court orders and decrees.

Refusing to pay spousal support (alimony) or child support or refusing to allow the other parent to have time with his or her child are common ways this anger manifests itself. Sometimes, though, a parent or former spouse believes they are justified in disobeying court orders. Whatever the reason, when a former spouse disobeys domestic court orders and decrees, it is often necessary to return to court for Enforcement of those orders.

These kinds of circumstances are never fun, but when you have a qualified family law attorney like Melissa Graham-Hurd, on your side, pursuing enforcement of court orders or decrees can be effective, efficient and minimally stressful. Ms. Graham-Hurd has a passion for seeing families enjoy the best possible resolution to family matters. Withholding support or parenting time is never a positive situation for a family, so Ms. Graham-Hurd is always swift to take action when a client is being denied their rights guaranteed by a court. Likewise, Ms. Graham-Hurd is equally aggressive in defending a client against wrongful claims of contempt, as well as helping clients resolve issues with former spouses or partners so contempt issues don’t arise.

Put Ms. Graham-Hurd’s passion, resolve and experience to work for you when you have a conflict with a former spouse or partner that involves, or could involve, refusal to comply with court orders and decrees. Contact Ohio family attorney Melissa Graham-Hurd to schedule an initial consultation.

Understanding Contempt Motions and Non-compliance with court orders

If one party is not obeying the court order, the offended party can file a Motion to Show Cause/Motion for Contempt.  This motion explains to the court what the order in effect states, how the other party is not obeying the order, and asks the court for an Order mandating the other person Appear in court and Show Cause why he or she should not punished for disobedience of the court’s order.  That initial order, commanding an appearance at an assigned date and time, is almost always granted upon motion. 

The contempt motion must be accompanied by an affidavit explaining in detail, from the moving party’s point of view, exactly how the other party did not follow the court’s orders.  These Motions for Contempt are heard by a magistrate, at a hearing which is held anywhere from four to six weeks after the Motion is filed.  Service of the motion on the other party can be accomplished by certified mail service or personal service.  It may be preferable to have the other party personally served to avoid certified mail being refused or refusal to pick it up, which causes a delay of the hearing because the other party must have seven days’ notice prior to the hearing.  Also, if imprisonment is sought as a punishment for failure to abide by the orders, the person must be personally served.

During the time between service of the motion and the hearing, it is helpful for Attorney Melissa Graham-Hurd to discuss with the other side’s lawyer how best to resolve the issues pending with the court in that motion.  Sometimes the parties can agree to modify the orders to better serve their needs, or more importantly, to serve the needs of any children involved.

At the hearing, the person who filed the motion (referred to as the “moving party” or the “movant”) puts on his or her case first, and then the other party has an opportunity to defend their position.  The parties can call witnesses, cross-examine the witnesses, and produce documentary evidence as well as challenge the evidence produced from the other party, at the hearing, which is called an Evidentiary Hearing, and is like a Trial.  After the hearing, the magistrate will make a Decision in writing, and it will be mailed to the attorneys for the parties or to the parties themselves if they are appearing at the trial of the matter without counsel.

If either party believes that the magistrate made an error in the decision, an objection to a magistrate’s decision can be filed within fourteen (14) calendar days after the order is file-stamped, and must contain specific facts or law supporting the overturning of the decision.  There is an automatic stay of the magistrate’s decision unless a separate motion is filed and the judge approves a separate order making the decision effective despite an objection being filed.  A transcript of the hearing before the magistrate must be filed with the memorandum on the objection.  There will be a charge for the transcript by the court reporter.

The judge will decide whether the magistrate was correct or not, and issue a Finding.   If there is no objection, the magistrate’s decision is effective when it is filed.

If a person is found to be in contempt of court, that finding can be civil in nature, criminal in nature, or mixed.  If the contempt criminal in nature, the court will seek primarily to punish the person for disobedience by fine, imposition of costs and fees, or by jail term, or a combination of punishments.  If civil in nature, the court seeks primarily to secure compliance with its orders and will give the person found in contempt an opportunity to redeem the wrongdoing by setting terms to purge (erase) the contempt, such as by paying a fine, paying the offended party’s attorney fees, serving a suspended sentence, and performing other good faith acts. 

Get Help with court order Compliance and Contempt Issues in Your Ohio Family Law Case

Put Ms. Graham-Hurd’s passion, resolve and experience to work for you when you have a conflict with a former spouse or partner that involves, or could involve, refusal to comply with court orders and decrees. Contact Ohio divorce attorney Melissa Graham-Hurd to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your court orders and how best to secure compliance.

THIS INFORMATION IS INTENDED TO BE A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF CONTEMPT AND ENFORCEMENT ISSUES AND IS NOT INTENDED AS LEGAL ADVICE ON YOUR PARTICULAR CIRCUMSTANCES.  IT IS ONLY INTENDED TO ASSIST YOU IN UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS.

IF YOU SHOULD HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL THE OFFICE TO SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT – 330-996-4099.