father holding his child

What is a Contempt Motion?

A contempt motion is a motion filed in family court when the other parent doesn’t obey a court order. The court order is most often based upon the agreement of the parties but sometimes is based upon solely a prior order entered by the judge. The contempt motion asks the court to hold a hearing where the other parent must explain why they aren’t following the court order.

The only valid defense to a contempt motion is inability to pay. Sometimes a party will argue that they didn’t have notice of the order or that they didn’t understand the order, but these defenses are rarely successful.

With a contempt motion, the judge can order the party who has not complied with the court order to immediately comply. This means if you are the offending party you better be prepared to pay on the day of court and be prepared to pay attorney’s fees. The judge can also award attorney’s fees and can incarcerate the offending party immediately at the conclusion of the hearing. I have had hearings where the offending party was immediately arrested at the conclusion of the hearing. Contempt motions are nothing to take lightly. Attorney’s fees are routinely awarded in contempt proceedings.

What do you need to know as a client? First, you must prove that the other parent was put on notice that they had not complied with the order. This usually involves you sending them a written demand to comply with the order. The demand can be via email, but you must prove that you sent the demand and asked the other parent to comply. If your contempt involves reimbursement of expenses related to your children you have to provide copies of the receipts, proof of your payment, and clear documentation on how much is owed. You must do this prior to the filing of a contempt so you can show that your demand was made and that the offending party still didn’t comply.

The lesson here is that if you agreed to something and it became a court order then you need to follow the court order or risk the consequences. For more information contact us at columbiafamilylawgroup.com.