Contempt Actions Lawyer in Georgia Helping You Explore Your Legal Options
When you go through the family law courts, your case will include one or more court orders when it is finalized. These orders can relate to things like property division, child support, child custody, and other issues. It is absolutely vital that you comply with any and all aspects of a court order, or you could face contempt of court. In some cases, it may be necessary for you to file a contempt action against the other party to ensure that they abide by the court order. Dealing with a contempt action — no matter which side you’re on — can be scary and leave you uncertain of what to do next. Find out how contempt actions work and what you need to know below.
Being accused of contempt of court or filing a contempt action is serious, and you need a family law attorney to help you understand what you need to do and what your options are. Lunn Law LLC is here to answer questions about contempt actions in the family courts and help you respond appropriately.
What Is a Contempt Action?
Contempt of court is when someone isn’t following a court order. In family law cases, this is common as part of ongoing child custody and child support proceedings, but it can also happen in divorce cases, such as when one or both parties refuse to produce financial disclosures or sells marital assets during proceedings. When a contempt action has been filed, it’s important to respond immediately. The courts do not look favorably on failure to follow their orders, and a judge can impose harsh penalties if you are in contempt. Being found in contempt can also affect other aspects of your case.
What Issues Warrant Filing a Contempt Action?
Filing a contempt action is a serious step, but it’s one that is necessary in some cases to get the other party to comply with the court order. Below are some of the most common reasons we see for contempt actions.
Failure to Pay Child Support
Child support that is court-ordered must be paid. If there are extenuating circumstances that keep the payor from being able to keep up with child support obligations, they need to discuss that with the Division of Child Support to see if a change to the order is warranted. In some cases, the parent may be able to get child support lowered — even just temporarily — to an amount that they are able to pay so they can stay in compliance.
If you are supposed to be receiving child support but aren’t, it’s important to take action. Child support is designed to ensure that your children have the financial support they need, and failure to pay is a serious offense. By filing a contempt action, you can start enforcement proceedings that can help you get payments. This can include wage garnishments, a seek work order or a tax refund interception.
Not Abiding by the Custody Agreement
A child custody order is a legally binding court order that dictates when each parent has time with the children and who is responsible for making decisions about the children. It can also include other guidelines, including how much advance notice one parent must give the other before taking the children on vacation and who is responsible for taking the children to and from school. If your ex isn’t abiding by the child custody order in your divorce decree, a contempt filing may be warranted.
Failure to Follow a Court Order
Failing to stay in compliance with any family court order is grounds for a contempt action. For example, during a divorce, the parties are generally not allowed to use, sell, or change any of the marital assets. This is because doing so could mean that the other party didn’t get their fair share of the assets since it wasn’t able to be accounted for in the equitable distribution. If you believe that the other party has taken actions that are against a court order, it’s important to talk to your attorney to find out if contempt is warranted and, if so, to file it as quickly as possible.
What Happens After a Contempt Action Is Filed?
When a contempt action is filed, the other party will be served so that they are aware of the allegation and can respond. The court orders a contempt hearing, during which the judge will hear both parties’ arguments as to why the contempt allegations are true or false. If you are the person who is being accused of being in contempt of court, it’s vital that you speak with your attorney as soon as you are aware of the filing so that you can gather evidence to support your case. The judge will make a determination as to whether they believe the person is in contempt, and if so, they will determine what consequences to impose.
What Are the Consequences of Being Found in Contempt?
Being found in contempt of court can carry significant penalties. In the state of Georgia, you can be found in civil contempt or criminal contempt. In family court cases, civil contempt is more common. If the offending party is found in civil contempt, they can be sentenced to jail time until they have fulfilled the court’s order.
Consider this example: A court order specifies that both parents have to share medical records from doctor’s appointments and mental health care practitioners that their children have seen. However, one parent refuses to comply with this order and doesn’t share the documents. If that person is found in contempt, they can be sentenced to jail until they hand over the documents.
If you are facing contempt, speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you understand why the other party has filed contempt and help you fight the allegations.
If you’re looking for a family law attorney to help you with a contempt of court case, call Lunn Law LLC today at 770-762-4628. Our team of attorneys understands the seriousness of these cases and can provide counsel on your next steps. Schedule your consultation today to discuss your case.