Why Contempt Actions May Not Help You in the Long Run

Anyone involved in a family law case can tell you that even after the case is over, there can still be lingering animosity.  The highly personal nature of family law cases can mean that the Judgeparties continue to struggle with each other for years after the case is over.  It is common that one of the parties will fail or even refuse to live up to the obligations listed in the custody order.  If that situation applies to you, you may be considering filing a contempt action against your former spouse or partner.  There are reasons why you may want to avoid a contempt action, as it may not help you in the long run.

The first and most obvious reason that a contempt action may not help you is in terms of finances.  It is not uncommon for people to want to file contempt when the other parent falls behind on child support or spousal support payments.  However, before filing for contempt, you need to consider whether the person failing to pay has the ability to make payments.  For example, if your former spouse was recently laid off from a high paying job and can no longer make the regular payments, it may not be worth filing for contempt right away, as he or she likely does not have the ability to bring the payments up to date.

Another common reason to file contempt against your former partner or spouse is if he or she fails to live up to a custody order.  It is incredibly frustrating when the other parent does not show up on time to exchange the children.  Your instinct may be to immediately file a contempt action to make sure the other parent is punished for his or her failure to show up on time.  However, it could be a better use of your time and resources to instead file a request to modify the current order.  Repeated failure to live up to the order can constitute a change in circumstances such that it is appropriate to modify the parenting plan.

Contempt actions are appropriate when a party is deliberately disobeying a court order.  When considering whether a contempt action is appropriate for your case, it is essential that you think carefully about whether your case can meet the essential elements of contempt, or whether it would be better to approach enforcement from another angle.

We have extensive experience with helping our clients in all types of family law cases.  Call us today at 651-371-9117 and let us help you.

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