Contempt of Court as a Tool To Enforce Divorce Decrees
If a divorce decree is being violated, the former spouse who is suffering should bring the violation to the attention of the court as soon as possible. Some of the most common violations include failure to pay child support, failure to pay alimony, and interference with the agreed upon visitation schedule. It may be tempting to try in some way to force your ex-spouse to live up to the terms of the divorce, but the best remedy is to go to court with an experienced attorney on your side.
A divorce decree is an order of the court, which means only the court has the power to modify it; parties to the agreement may not do so unilaterally. Violation of a decree can result in being held in contempt of court. The court clerk can provide you with the necessary forms to cite a violation of a divorce decree. Remember that the party who files a motion for contempt has the burden of proof. You will have to gather evidence persuasive enough for the judge to grant you relief.
After filing the paperwork and serving your ex with a copy of the contempt motion, a hearing will be scheduled, at which the judge will likely issue an order demanding your former spouse adhere to the terms of the divorce. Usually the judge’s order will contain a time limit for compliance. This is also the stage at which any evidence you have gathered will be submitted to the court.
If your former spouse continues to violate the terms of divorce, you must file a second motion with the court along with a copy of your divorce decree and most recent court order. This time, the judge will likely sanction your ex-spouse in some way. This penalty could include contempt of court, which may result in jail time. The threat of jail time is not meant to be punitive, but is designed to bring about compliance. There are a few circumstances in which a court may formally hold an ex-spouse in contempt but not actually jail them. These can include the lack of anyone able to care for their dependent children, the presence of physical or emotional disabilities, or if the jailing would result in the loss of their job.
Other sanctions can include mandated payment of your court costs, and possible modification of the current parenting plan, which could result in reduced child visitation time. All of these sanctions are designed to get your former spouse to adhere to the terms of the divorce decree.
Divorce is difficult enough without having to deal with a former spouse who refuses to adhere to the agreed upon terms. An experienced divorce attorney can help you enforce your rights in what may be an acrimonious situation. The experienced Fairfax divorce attorneys of DiPietro Family Law Group are ready to help all those in the Northern Virginia area with issues relating to divorce. Contact us today by calling (703) 370-5555 to schedule a consultation.
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