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Contempt Sanctions for Violations of Family Court Orders

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Once the judge makes a decision in a divorce or child custody proceeding in Kentucky, that decision gets entered as an order and becomes binding on all parties before the court. Court orders can be enforced in a number of ways, ranging from the imposition of fines and attorneys’ fees to possible jail time, should the court find you in contempt. Learn more about what it means to face (or seek) a contempt sanction, below.

When court orders issued as part of a divorce or custody dispute are violated, the other party can file a motion to have the violating party held in contempt. Kentucky courts will find someone in contempt where the other party can show that the violator willfully disregarded the terms of the court order to a significant degree, and had no good reason to do so. Once these elements have been proven, however, the court can impose a wide range of sanctions on the violating party. In fact, the court can even sentence the violator to six months in jail for their failure to comply.

Often, parties held in contempt are offered a period of time to “cure” the contempt before jail time is imposed. In other words, the violating party might have a period of 30 to 90 days to become caught up with past due child support before being sent to jail. Contempt can be sought not just where child support goes unpaid, but also where a parent refuses to let the other parent see the child, or relocates to another state without first seeking the co-parent or court’s consent.

Instead of risking severe court sanctions for being held in contempt, or even felony nonsupport charges, seek the court’s help before you violate a court order. For instance, you may lose your job and find yourself unable to pay the same amount of child support as you once did. Instead of letting yourself become hundreds or thousands of dollars behind on child support, an attorney can help you request a modification in the amount you owe in child support.

Alternatively, if you received an offer on a job that will require you to move to a new and distant part of the state, speak with your ex first, or seek the court’s consent to relocate, before violating your child custody arrangement by moving.

Here are a few alternatives you should consider if your ex blatantly flouts child custody or visitation orders:

Involve Your Attorney

If you see all your requests to cooperate and follow the custody arrangements being ignored, you will at some point need to take a stand in order to resolve the impasse. Start by asking your attorney to send your ex a letter, warning them of legal consequences that they might have to face if they do not resume abiding by the court order.

Sometimes, such a warning will work – at least in the short term. And if it does not resolve the situation immediately, it will at least ensure that the other parent knows they cannot get away with such a violation and sends a clear signal that you are ready to take further action. Most courts do not take a lenient view of such gross violation of a court order or arrangement.

Try Mediation            

A neutral party can counsel both you and your ex and help both of you to reach an agreement through mediation. However, mediation may work only if both of you agree to be willing participants in the effort. Resolution through mediation can save both of you from wasting a lot of time, effort, and money that you might otherwise spend on costly litigation.

Make sure that you keep your attorney in the loop and have them go through any agreement you reach with your ex through mediation. If you arrive at a new settlement through mediation, your lawyer must submit the new agreement for court’s approval and the new agreement can then be the basis of a fresh court order for custody and visitation arrangements.

File a Contempt of Court Motion

If the other, milder alternatives fail to elicit a positive response from your ex, you should file for contempt of court, as a last resort. This would force your ex to appear before a judge and justify their flagrant violation of the court’s order and convince the court why they should not be penalized for their gross misconduct.

If your ex or their attorney cannot satisfy the judge with any valid reasons behind their unwarranted violations, then the judge could hold your ex in contempt. If they are still unable to correct their course, there could be serious consequences like fines, driver’s license suspension, and even incarceration. You must take the help of an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through this process.

Things You Need to Avoid Doing

Even if your ex is violating the custody or visitation agreements, you need to avoid certain actions yourself, so that you do not find yourself in a situation where you are at a disadvantage and your ex gets an excuse to point a finger at you.

  • Do not try to even the score by violating the child custody order
  • Do not speak badly of your ex in front of your child
  • Do not move away with your child
  • Do not go to court over every small violation by your ex
  • Do not try to take up court matters without an attorney

If you’re facing a divorce in Kentucky and need a trustworthy, knowledgeable attorney to represent you in court, contact the Louisville family law attorneys at John Ruby & Associates for a consultation, at 502-895-2626.