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Contempt of Court

Posted by attorney Donald Criscuolo

Fort Lauderdale Attorney in Contempt of Court Proceedings:

Civil contempt of court is a remedy for violation of a court order indivorceproceedings. It frequently arises to enforce a court order of support, for example an order to pay child support or alimony. If a support order is entered during adivorceproceeding and the required payment not made a Motion for Contempt may be filed. Such a motion seeks a finding of contempt and a further order which is intended to compel compliance with the support order. When ruling on such a motion the hearing begins with the presumption that the person who was ordered to pay support has the ability to do so. That is because the Court has already entered an order establishing the level of support. That person then needs to convince the judge there is a good reason why the support was not paid, for example a loss of employment or some other extraordinary event.

Thedivorcejudge has a wide variety of tools available at its disposal to deal with contempt. The most drastic remedy is that of incarceration. Thedivorcejudge could, if convinced that the person intentionally did not pay, be ordered to report to the Broward County jail in Fort Lauderdale. If that occurs and the person does not report to the jail a Writ of Bodily Attachment could be issued directing the police agencies to literally “arrest" up the defaulting party and bring them before the Court. In these situations the person in contempt always “has the key to the jail cell" because the judge is required to establish a purge amount which, upon payment, would result in the release of the person in contempt.

As the above indicates, the person who is in default of a support order may be facing a very serious situation and needs to consider carefully their position. If during the pendency ofdivorceproceedings multiple occasions occur where hearings are held on contempt proceedings it could result in coloring the judge’s thinking when it comes time for the final hearing. Perhaps the judge will be angry due to repeated non-payment by the offending party. It could have the opposite result if the judge feels that perhaps the initial support order was too generous and upon the finaldivorcehearing will lower the amount to be paid in the future.

Non-payment of support is only one example of how the remedy of contempt could be used in adivorcebut is by no means the only example. Another situation is if a timesharing schedule is established and then violated, the offending party could be held in contempt. One remedy is the ordering of make-up timesharing to make up for the timesharing lost. Another is the imposition of sanctions upon the offending party which could include mandatory completion of a 12 week parenting course or participation in therapy and further the payment of theattorney’s feesincurred by the other party. In extreme circumstances, such as fleeing the jurisdiction, thedivorcejudge could issue a pick up order directing that the offending parent be arrested and the children returned to the jurisdiction.

When either the need arises duringdivorceproceedings to invoke the remedy of contempt or to defend a contempt action you should consult with an experienced family law attorney to insure you have proper representation.

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