Contempt Proceedings and their Role in Florida Family Law Cases
Are you owed back child support or spousal support in Florida? Or has your ex-spouse violated a custody or visitation order issued by a Florida court? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you should be aware that there are several different tools at your disposal for seeking compliance, one of which is asking the court to hold the violator in contempt of court.
Judges in Florida can hold a person “in contempt of court” (also referred to simply as “in contempt”) for intentionally disobeying a court order. When a person in held in contempt in a family court it is often because they:
- Violated a family restraining order,
- Failed to pay court ordered child support,
- Failed to pay court ordered spousal support,
- Did not make reasonable efforts to comply with a court ordered parenting plan,
- Failed to deliver property to their ex-spouse as required by a divorce court,
- Refused to allow their co-parent to visit their child in accordance with a court ordered parenting plan, or
- Failed to return their child to their co-parent at the end of a court ordered visitation period.
What Happens When Someone is Found to be in Contempt?
When a family law judge finds someone to be in contempt of court their goal is to convince that individual to comply with the court order that they previously flouted. In their discretion, a judge can attempt to accomplish this by ordering the person who has been found to be in contempt to:
- Get counseling,
- Complete a parenting class,
- Work for a certain number of hours per week,
- Pay attorney’s fees,
- Pay a fine, and/or
- Attend future compliance hearings.
How Do I Prove Contempt?
In order to prove to a family law court that someone else is in contempt you generally must be able to demonstrate that the following elements have all been satisfied:
- There is a valid, written court order that is in effect,
- The person you are claiming is in contempt knows about the court order,
- There is evidence showing a plain and willful violation of the order,
- The person is able to comply with the order,
- You have provided this person with appropriate notice of their contempt hearing, and
- Contempt is an appropriate remedy for the violation.
Alternatives to Contempt
If should be noted that filing a contempt action is a rather severe remedy and that, under some circumstances, doing so may not be the most effective remedy available to you. For example, it may be more beneficial to first send a demand letter, ask the court to clarify a vague or unclear order, petition the court to modify their order, initiate enforcement and collection actions, and/or engage in an alternative form of dispute resolution before initiating a contempt action. An experienced family law attorney will be able to evaluate your situation and recommend a sound course of action given your circumstances.
Let Us Help You with Your Case
If you have questions about contempt and enforcement proceedings in Florida know that the Madonna Law Group is here to help. Our experienced Dade City family law attorneys handle a wide variety of family law issues throughout Florida and would be happy to assist you. Contact us today via our website or by calling (800) 557-0411.