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How to Handle Issues of Contempt in Family Cases

When two parties get divorced and the divorce order is entered, the parties are expected to comply with the terms of the divorce order including any agreement that has been incorporated into the divorce order. For the most part, people tend to obey the terms of a court’s order. However, if a party does not comply with the order the other spouse may be within their right to file a request with the court to hold the breaching party in contempt. A contempt finding is serious and one that the court takes extremely seriously. If a party is found in contempt the court also has the power to assess attorney fees and court costs to the violator.

When can a Motion for Contempt be Filed?

A motion for contempt may be appropriate where there has been an intentional violation of a court order. Some behaviors which can lead to such filings include, but are not limited to:

*Failing to pay spousal support by date certain or at all;

*Refusing to communicate with the other parent about the children;

*Paying incorrect amount of child support or not paying child support at all;

*Not allowing the other parent access to the children at the designated day/time;

*Refusing to sign the necessary paper to transfer title of the property to the other spouse;

*Not returning the children to the other parent at the end of your access time;

*Scheduling activities for the children during the other parent’s access time without prior agreement.

Violating Custody and Access Orders

If you are the non-custodial parent and the other parent has interfered with or completely denied you access to your access, you may be left wondering what can be done about this violation. The court takes such violations seriously. At the utmost consideration is the best interest of the child and the impact that the violation has on the child. Violations of custody and visitation orders can be enforced through a motion for contempt. Where a party unjustifiably denies or interferes with the other parent’s access pursuant to the court-ordered arrangement, that party may be found in contempt. As a remedy where intentional violation to access has occurred the court may modify the existing agreement or may require make-up time to be imposed, as well as order the violator to pay the attorney fees and court costs of the other party. See Maryland Code, Family Law Article, Section 9-105. In extreme cases, if the violating parent continues to deny or interfere with access the court may order that parent forfeit primary custody to the other parent.

Violating Child Support or Spousal Support Orders

When a party who is ordered to pay child support or spousal support does not comply, they may be found in contempt of court. The court has several remedies available, should a party be found in contempt. One remedy, the most extreme, and not taken lightly by the court, is to imprison the non-

complying payor, where the non-paying party did in fact have the ability to pay but intentionally chose not to. This is an exception to the general prohibition of imprisonment due to financial debts.

In a case where the court enters a child support or spousal support order that is intentionally not complied with, the violator may be subject to a Maryland mandatory earnings withholding order. In other words, the support payor’s employer could be required to withhold from the payor’s paycheck the child support or spousal support amount.

In addition, where the court has ordered payment of child support, spousal support, or any other payment of money and this order has not been complied with, the court can also enter a judgment against the non-paying party for the number of accumulated payments owed. As a result of the judgment, Maryland law allows the non-paying party’s property may be seized to satisfy the judgment.

If the payor moves out of the state of Maryland in order to avoid support payments, or they move out of state for any reason, the support order can still be enforced. The orders can be enforced through the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).

Contact KGO Today

If you are in need of assistance with enforcing a custody or support order, or any family law matter issue, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Krum, Gergely & Oates LLC today for a consultation.