Lakeland Contempt & Enforcement Attorney
A judgment of divorce does more than officially dissolve a legal marriage. It also includes court orders regarding matters such as timesharing, child support and spousal support (alimony). Court orders are enforceable by the court and in other ways as well. Going to court might not be the option of first resort, but at times it might be the best option. If your former spouse is not obeying court orders regarding timesharing or support, or if you are being accused of noncompliance with divorce court orders, the family law attorney at Darla K. Snead, P.L., can ably represent you in any proceeding brought to seek enforcement, including proceedings for contempt. Contact our experienced Lakeland contempt & enforcement attorney today.
When a person is not complying with court orders, they can be held in contempt of court. Being found in contempt could subject a person to civil or criminal sanctions, including fines and even jail time. The intent behind issuing a fine or jail sentence is not punishment per se; rather, the purpose is coercion. It is hoped that the threat of sanctions will be enough to force a person to comply, or that once imposed, these sanctions will quickly get the person to change their mind about complying with court orders.
A contempt hearing is serious business. A person found in contempt of court will most likely be fined, although a jail sentence is possible. The person could be ordered jailed until they comply, or they could be sentenced to a definite term and required to serve out that term even if they promise to comply with the relevant court order.
There have been cases where contempt wasn’t effective, and a former spouse would rather spend time in jail than fulfill their commitment to pay court-ordered alimony. For most people, however, contempt sanctions or the threat of contempt is very effective. Hopefully, it won’t come to that, but contempt is a powerful tool that has its place when court action is needed to secure enforcement. If you are on either side of a contempt proceeding in Florida, you’ll need effective representation from an experienced trial lawyer to protect your rights and interests.
Enforcement Without Contempt
The threat of being cited with contempt can be a powerful tool to force compliance with court orders, but there are other options that might be quicker and equally or more effective. Some of these require going to court while others involve contacting various state agencies. For example, if a party has stopped making required child support or spousal support payments, one or more of these tools might be available:
- Wage garnishments and income withholding
- Intercept the party’s tax refund and apply it to what they owe
- Secure a lien against their real or personal property
There may be other ways to motivate a party to pay without going directly after their money or property. For example, Florida laws authorize the suspension of a driver’s license, professional license, business license, or even a hunting or fishing license, for someone who has in arrears on their child support.
For a parent who is not complying with child custody (timesharing) as required, the court has tools besides contempt. A judge could, for instance:
- Modify the parenting plan or timesharing, giving more time or control to the parent who is not violating the court order. As with any decision affecting children, however, any such modification would have to be justified as being in the best interest of the child.
- Order family counseling or parenting classes, paid for by the parent who violated the court orders
Don’t Take Matters Into Your Own Hands
If you are seeking enforcement of court orders, it’s important to use the legal tools available, whether you go through state agencies on your own or go to court with your lawyer. Don’t think you can violate court orders because your ex is. For instance, you can’t withhold their custodial time if they aren’t paying support or playing by the rules. Likewise, you can’t unilaterally decide to withhold paying required support even if they are violating timesharing rules by keeping the child too long or missing exchanges. If you do things that put you in violation of court orders, you might not only hurt your ability to force the other party to comply, but you could wind up suffering adverse consequences yourself, including losing custodial time or being found in contempt. There are effective legal tools available. Talk to your attorney about the best way to enforce court orders you believe are being violated.
That said, it might make sense to try less severe measures of enforcement before going straight to court or a state agency. If you can communicate with your ex, you could try to find out what is going on and find a way to solve the problem. Are they having financial difficulties that make it hard to keep up with payments? Are new work responsibilities interfering with the parenting plan? You can work with your attorney to advise you and represent you as necessary. They will help you document any discussions or decisions you make with your ex, and if agreeing to modify a payment plan or timesharing, put it in writing and take it to court to make it official. There is a right way and a wrong way to approach modifications or enforcement, and the skilled and knowledgeable divorce lawyer at Darla K. Snead, P.L., is here to advise and assist you.
Contact Darla K. Snead, P.L. Today
If your ex is not complying with court orders regarding timesharing, child support or spousal support, or if you are accused of violating the court orders in your Florida divorce, the law office of Darla K. Snead, P.L., can provide you with practical advice and effective representation, including zealous advocacy in court as needed. Contact our experienced Lakeland contempt and enforcement lawyer today.