When an order is issued in a divorce action, child custody action, child support action, or any other domestic or family law case, one or both parties are typically subject to ongoing obligations to the other party as a part of the Court’s order. For example, one parent may be required to pay monthly child support to the other parent, turn over certain items of property, refinance the marital residence, obtain life insurance, pay alimony to the former spouse, satisfy credit card debt, or make the parties’ minor child available for visitation with the other parent. Unfortunately, the failure of one or both parties to fully comply with all the terms of the Court’s orders is a frequent issue that arises both during the litigation and years after the case has been finalized.

When that occurs, the aggrieved party must file a “Motion for Contempt” with the Court, which alleges willful non-compliance with the Court’s order and asks the Court to enforce the provision which the other party has violated. Fortunately, a Court has the power to compel parties to obey its orders and to punish parties for contemptuous behaviors, including the power to incarcerate the offending party to compel obedience. Other inherent powers of the Court to enforce its orders include the ability to hold a party in both civil and criminal contempt, to enter a writ of execution, or fieri facias, and to enter income deduction orders or garnish the party’s wages to ensure timely payment of past due or future support. Our attorneys are skilled in addressing contempt matters, and will strategically pursue the enforcement options and remedies which will best serve our clients and help make them whole again or defend such an action.

Contempt for Failure to Pay Child Support / Child Support Collection and Recovery

One of the most common forms of contempt is the failure of one parent to pay the court ordered child support to the other parent for the benefit of the minor child following the entry of a Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce, or any other court order which establishes that one parent must pay child support to the other parent. Often, the failure of one parent to help support the minor children leaves the custodial parent in a very difficult financial situation, and the custodial parent may feel that he or she does not have the financial resources to pursue a contempt action or hire an attorney.

Thankfully, Georgia law provides that contempt proceedings to recover child support shall not constitute the filing of a new action or require the payment of a new filing fee, which reduces the financial burden on the custodial parent. Furthermore, the law provides the Court with the discretion to grant the custodial parent attorney’s fees as part of the expenses of litigation in a contempt case. Accordingly, in addition to helping our clients recover the child support arrears and amounts owed to them, our attorneys are skilled in petitioning the Court to order the other parent to reimburse our clients for any legal fees incurred while seeking to collect the child support owed. With a wealth of experience in this area, our attorneys are equally adept at defending contempt actions.

Contempt for Failure to Pay Alimony

Another common form of contempt is the failure of a former spouse to pay alimony to the other spouse as ordered by the Court. Frequently, one spouse may be in contempt for failure to pay temporary alimony ordered by the Court while the divorce case is still pending. Additionally, a former spouse may cease making alimony payments years after the divorce is finalized for a variety of reasons. Often, the former spouse claims that they are simply unable to pay the financial obligation as an attempted defense to the contempt action.

It is true that a party’s inability to pay financial obligations may be a defense to a contempt proceeding because a finding of contempt requires the party’s willful disobedience of a court order. However, a former spouse’s inability to pay alimony is only a defense when he or she can demonstrate that their inability to pay has not been caused by their own actions, and that they have exhausted all resources and assets available and are still unable to obtain the funds necessary to comply with the order of the Court. Our attorneys are well versed in analyzing the former spouse’s financial situation in order to refute claims of inability to pay and to identify resources which the Court may use to satisfy arrearages and sums owed to our clients, as well as defending alimony contempt cases.

Contempt for Failure to distribute assets or comply with provisions of the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce

Contempt actions may be brought against a former spouse for failure to distribute assets or comply with various provisions of a settlement agreement or the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce. For example, contempt actions commonly involve one spouse’s failure to refinance the marital home, execute a quitclaim deed to property, allow the other spouse access to property to retrieve their personal belongings, secure life insurance, pay off credit card or other debts, or to execute a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) to distribute retirement funds or pension benefits to the other spouse.

Clearly, each of these situations necessitates different remedies and methods of enforcing the Court’s orders and the parties’ agreements. Our attorneys are experienced in analyzing each individual situation and crafting a contempt action which is aimed at enforcing the Court’s orders and compensating our clients for any losses which have been suffered based upon the other party’s non-compliance, and are skilled in defending such actions.

If you need help with your ex-spouse who refuses to abide by the court ordered divorce decree, we can help. Contact the experienced lawyers at Thompson, Meier & King at our main location in downtown Canton in the heart of Cherokee County or in our satellite office in downtown Blue Ridge in north Georgia.

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