Although family law issues may be contentious, and emotions may run high, parties usually listen to the authority of the court and follow the orders that may be handed down. Parents are usually motivated to protect the best interests of their children, and they will work together to ensure that the correct procedures and requirements are followed and that everyone is getting the benefits that they are entitled to receive. However, on rare occasions, a spouse may refuse to cooperate in custody or divorce proceedings, no matter what the court may require. This refusal to abide by the authority of the court is known as contempt, and it may result in severe punishment for people who engage in it. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee family law attorneys can advise you on when contempt may arise and how to request relief from the court when it occurs.What is Contempt? An individual acts in contempt of court when they refuse to abide by an order of the court. Contempt arises when an individual acts intentionally; it does not include mistakes or misunderstandings. Likewise, contempt occurs when an individual has no legal justification for acting in a particular manner. If a party believes that they are justified in refusing to abide by court requirements, such as failing to show up to visitation because they believe that a child may be placed in danger, this may not qualify as contempt. Examples of contempt include knowingly and intentionally failing to pay ordered child support or spousal maintenance, or refusing to abide by court orders for the division of assets or child visitation times. What to Do About Contempt
While contempt may occur in front of the court, such as failing to show up for a required hearing, it usually happens outside the courtroom and without the knowledge of a judge. This means that the party who is harmed by the violation of the court order must raise the violation with the judge in order to have it addressed. This is done by filing a motion for contempt, which must show that there was a valid court order and that the individual at issue did not comply with this court order. The individual at issue must also be served with a copy of this contempt motion. The alleged contemnor will then be given an opportunity to respond and show why they were unable to comply with the order. If there was a valid reason for failing to comply, the individual will not be held in contempt. Typically, a hearing will be conducted by the court as well. Since jail time is a potential sanction for contempt, certain due process rights, such as the opportunity for a hearing, must be protected.Sanctions for Contempt
If the court grants your motion for contempt, it may order the other individual to remedy the improper behavior and may also impose sanctions for the contempt. Sanctions may involve additional payments, garnishing wages, and, in particularly severe circumstances, jail time. If severe sanctions are being considered, the court will first be required to give the individual an opportunity to “purge” the contempt by correcting the bad behavior before imposing punishment. Courts have significant leeway both in imposing sanctions on individuals who violate a court order and in crafting opportunities for those individuals to address the situation. It is also important to note that people who file motions for contempt can seek to have their attorneys’ fees paid by the opposing party if their motion is successful.Discuss a Contempt Proceeding with a Milwaukee Lawyer
Dealing with a party’s inability to abide by orders of the court may be an extremely frustrating process. After navigating a child custody or child support battle, the last thing that anyone needs is to find out that their ex-spouse or co-parent refuses to abide by the requirements set in place by the court. Fortunately, when these issues arise, motions for contempt allow parties to seek swift and effective relief from any problems and allow them to recover any losses that they have incurred. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee attorneys are committed to representing you in Wisconsin family law matters over the long term. Even after an order is entered, if you continue to encounter difficulties, we can assist you in navigating the contempt process. Contact our office online or at (414) 271-6400 to set up an appointment. We also represent people who need a divorce lawyer in Port Washington, Racine, West Bend, Waukesha, and other areas of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington, and Waukesha Counties.