Enforcement of Court Orders
When a party to a family court order fails to follow its terms, one can petition the family court to enforce the order and secure the other party’s compliance. The enforcement mechanism is through a contempt action, commonly called a “Rule to Show Cause." A rule to show cause asks the family court to hold the opposing party in contempt until he or she complies with the provision of the court order at issue. A finding of contempt requires a finding that the other party failed to comply with the court order and was “wilful" in his or her non-compliance–that is, that the other party had the ability to comply with the court order and chose not to. The ability to have the opposing party placed in jail until he or she complies with the court order (and the ability to have most or all of one’s attorney’s fees reimbursed for successful rule to show cause) makes the enforcement mechanism very powerful. Few people need to be held in contempt more than once or twice before they take compliance with the order seriously. When one is having problems getting the opposing party to comply with a valid court order, bringing a rule to show cause is frequently the best strategic option.