It’s over. Your divorce is finalized, the final order has been entered and all has finally been agreed to (or decided for you). The nightmare is finally over, right? After all, word is bond and a judge has ordered both you and your ex on how to conduct yourselves moving forward as you go your separate ways. But what do you do when the other person doesn’t treat that signed document as something they must abide by?
You file a contempt action of course. After all, a person willfully disregarding an Order from a judge is a serious offense with consequences ranging from a financial slap of the wrist all the way to spending time in jail. But how do you know it is time to file for contempt? Consider the below scenarios and ask yourself if you would pull the trigger on filing for contempt against the other party:
Your ex is supposed to have visitation with the kids every other weekend and all 3-day weekends from school. If they aren’t going to exercise their visitation they are supposed to give you forty-eight (48) hours notice. One time in March they gave you twenty-four (24) hour notice that they would not be able to exercise their weekend visitation. Another time in October they did not provide any notice that they would not be exercising their parenting time that weekend. They just didn’t show up.
Your ex has a monthly child support obligation of $600.00. They consistently send you $595 per month, claiming that there is a $5.00 transfer fee that they reduce from their child support. This has been going on for the past five years, despite you informing them every month that they are short the $5.00 of their child support obligation. They are now $300.00 in arrears for owed child support.
Your ex was ordered to pay alimony of $2,500.00 per month for forty-eight (48) months and child support for your then 11 year-old and 6-year old in the amount of $3,500.00 per month. Your ex is also responsible for covering the children’s tuition and extracurricular activity enrollment fees. For the first six (6) months after the divorce they complied with the order. Then they met someone new and decided they don’t want to pay your alimony anymore. That was three (3) months ago. They have not missed a child support payment and promise to continue covering the kids’ tuitions and extracurricular activities as long as you don’t take them back to court.
There is no right or wrong answer, and the context of your relationship with your ex plays a large factor in how most people approach that decision. There is also a cost-benefit analysis that must be conducted when pursuing a contempt. Is the juice worth the squeeze for a $300.00 arrearage when the cost for getting an attorney, filing for a contempt, conducting discovery and going through litigation all over again could greatly exceed that possible award? If both parties had an amicable divorce and were able to reach a settlement agreement, maybe not. On the other hand, if the litigation was particularly contentious and both parties had to go through months of litigation and a nasty trial maybe it is worth enforcing the ruling on all fronts to ensure your ex isn’t encouraged to violate the order in other ways. Behavioral training, if you will.
In summary, you will know the time is right to file for contempt when the situation has a material impact on you or your children. When the action(s) that led to the contempt feel more like a punishment than an honest mistake or slip of the mind, it is important that you defend your interests and protect yourself as well as those relying on your protection. Every contempt doesn’t need to be filed, but some contempt actions cannot wait a day longer to be brought to the Court’s attention.
If you are in a situation where you are wondering whether it is time for you to file for a contempt, please come to The Manely Firm, P.C. for a strategy session with one of our attorneys to weigh your options and make the best decision for you and your family. An Order is an Order. Is it time to enforce it?