Divorce Contempt: How to Protect Yourself and Your Family

Divorce can be emotionally complex and stressful. As such, emotions may cause some to act out of turn in a family law court. These actions can include ignoring a discovery request, failing to pay child or spousal support, and outbursts in the courtroom.

It is essential to document any violations of your divorce order so that you can file a contempt action. This will protect you if your ex violates other parts of your decree.

Schedule a Hearing

If you are trying to enforce an existing court order, the first step is to schedule a hearing. This can be done by filing a request in court or contacting your attorney for help.

A hearing is a court date where the judge will listen to your arguments and decide how to proceed with your case. For example, you might get back your missed child support payments if you prove the other party is violating the existing court order. A hearing is often required, but it may also be possible to file a stipulation and have the other side sign it instead of going through the hearing process.

The process of getting a divorce can be highly stressful, and it is not uncommon for couples to disagree on many issues, such as custody of children, property division, spousal support, and child and spousal support. You must stay calm and avoid bad-mouthing your spouse, as the judge might find this against you.

When you go to your hearing, ensure you are prepared with all the necessary paperwork. Depending on what you need to ask the judge, there are different forms that you will need to fill out. For example, you must submit a financial disclosure form to request a pretrial order.

Serve Your Ex

The court requires that you serve your spouse a copy of every document you file in the case. This includes any hearing notices that you send to your ex.

If your ex-spouse violates any aspect of the divorce decree without approaching the court for a modification, they can be found guilty of contempt. This could include failing to pay a child support or spousal maintenance obligation, violating custody or parenting time obligations, or committing domestic violence. Depending on the severity of the violation and the circumstances surrounding it, your ex-spouse may be subject to jail time.

Effective communication is essential, like divorce contempt of court in divorce proceedings, but it can be challenging. It would help if you always thought before you speak to your former spouse, whether in person, over the phone, via text message, or through email. If you’re upset or emotional, try not to respond immediately. Often, the words you say in the heat of the moment can come back to haunt you later on.

If you’re having trouble affording a process server, many counties have procedures for waiving sheriff’s service fees for qualifying residents. You can also ask a friend or family member who isn’t involved in the divorce to act as a process server, but make sure they follow all state and local rules for serving papers.

File a Motion

A “motion” requests that the court take action on some issue before your divorce case is finished. A motion can be filed in various matters, such as seeking enforcement or requesting a modification of an existing court order.

When filing a motion, it is essential to be specific and include supporting documentation. In Family Part litigation, which often devolves into a he-said-she-said dispute, the more documents you have supporting your request, the more likely the judge will grant your relief.

Also, include a copy of the original court order that was violated and state exactly how your ex failed to comply. For example, don’t just say they did not pay all of their support – state how much is owed and when the payments were missed, short, or late.

It is also a good idea to inventory all your household belongings so you have a record of objects disappearing during the divorce process. You can do this on your own, or you can ask the court to appoint someone to help you.

Once you have completed all the forms, please bring them to the clerk’s office for filing. There will be a filing fee unless you are eligible for a waiver. Remember to redact or black out personal identifiers on all copies you submit to the court.

Prepare for the Hearing

During a divorce, the judge will have a limited understanding of your family’s situation. This is because judges often have full schedules of hearings and trials, so they have very little time to understand the background of each case.

As a result, it is essential to prepare for your hearing. This includes gathering all relevant documents and preparing to answer questions under oath. Additionally, you should take the time to understand what type of contempt is at issue – criminal or civil. Criminal contempt could lead to incarceration, but civil contempt is more likely to involve a money judgment and make-up visitation.

It is also essential to have a plan for your financial future post-divorce. You should create a budget and identify your expenses, including necessary and discretionary items. Then, you can determine how much income you’ll need to cover these expenses. Creating separate bank accounts is also helpful, as it allows you to track your finances and prevent your spouse from accessing the funds.

It is also a good idea to cancel all joint credit cards and sign up for Informed Delivery from the U.S. Postal Service, which will send you a morning email previewing all the mail due to arrive that day. This will help to ensure that your spouse doesn’t have access to your mail and can’t hide assets or make purchases before the hearing.

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