Contempt Orders & Enforcement Proceedings

Family Law Attorney Dedicated to Assisting Connecticut Individuals

Family law matters are frequently riddled with difficulties, and unfortunately these issues can continue even after a divorce is finalized. If you are having trouble obtaining child support or spousal support from a former spouse, or if you are struggling to meet payments imposed on you, it may be wise to seek legal guidance. Skilled family law lawyer Walter A. Shalvoy Jr. has extensive experience assisting Connecticut residents in matters related to child support and spousal support, including contempt and enforcement proceedings.

The Role of Contempt Orders

A person can be held in contempt only when he or she violates a court order. In the context of family law, civil contempt and enforcement proceedings may be initiated against someone, usually an ex-spouse, who is required to provide child support or spousal support payments and is failing to meet the terms of that order. For other orders related to divorce, a proceeding for enforcement may be brought, but contempt is not available.

Civil contempt proceedings must be brought by the individual seeking to enforce the order, who is known as the petitioner. He or she must file a motion with the appropriate court, and the court clerk will then set a date for the hearing. The person against whom the motion is filed, known as the respondent, must be given sufficient notice of the hearing, including when it will happen and what may be the consequences of a finding of contempt. These may include:

  • Fines;
  • Incarceration;
  • Liens on real or personal property;
  • Wage garnishment;
  • Withholding of income;
  • Withholding of tax refunds or other funds due; or
  • Seizure of personal assets.

In more extreme child support delinquency cases, a Connecticut court may take further steps, such as revoking a driver's license, having the Bureau of Child Support report the debt to consumer credit bureaus, or even charging the delinquent parent with a state or federal crime.

To prevail in a contempt proceeding, the petitioner must show that a valid court order exists, that the court order has been violated, and that the violation was willful and intentional. "Willfulness" means not only that the respondent knew of the order, but that he or she had the ability to meet the terms of the order and nonetheless failed to comply with it.

When contempt is found, the court will issue an order containing provisions for the repayment of all amounts in arrears. It may take the further step of putting in place measures that will ensure that payments will be made in the future. Additionally, the losing party in a contempt proceeding may be required by the court to pay for the reasonable attorneys' fees of the prevailing party.

It is important to remember that mere violation of a valid order is insufficient for the court to reach a finding of contempt. In many contempt proceedings, the respondent is able to defend his or her non-compliance by showing that he or she was unable to comply with the order, or that the order was insufficiently clear as to what was required. For example, if a respondent loses his or her job involuntarily and is unable to find alternate employment in order to meet the financial obligations, a court may be less likely to find that the violation is willful.

Protect Your Rights After Divorce

The aftermath of dissolving a marriage can lead to many unexpected sources of conflict, and further legal proceedings sometimes may be necessary. If you are trying to pursue or fight against a finding of contempt, child support attorney Walter A. Shalvoy Jr. can help. He has provided diligent legal representation to many individuals in Connecticut and the surrounding communities. You can contact Shalvoy Law by calling 203-426-4409 or using our online contact form to set up a free consultation.