Contempt of Court

Contempt of Court

What is Contempt in a Divorce

In a legal sense, the term “contempt” may be applicable if a person has deliberately acted in defiance of a court order. Relative to divorces with children, contempt is most often associated with failure to pay child support and failure to meet terms of visitation.

What constitutes contempt in a divorce?

Any form of co-parenting has it’s share of challenges. From traffic problems, work schedules and illness to interpersonal friction sometimes things do not go letter perfect. When complications arise the best remedy is active communication with a spirit of cooperation in doing the right thing. If problems continually arise, and communications do not produce positive resolution, your situation may be drifting into a situation that requires the help of a family law attorney. Possible legal remedies for your situation range from simple litigation and mediation to a formal court hearing.

Civil Contempt in Georgia

Civil Contempt

Civil contempt is applicable when a person is deemed to be willfully defiant or otherwise not complying with court orders. Ignoring any point of your divorce settlement agreement could bring contempt charges. Additionally, per the FindLaw website, "Judges have the discretion to sever the child custody portion of the divorce if they consider it in the best interests of the child" 1

Common causes to file a motion for civil contempt are:

  • Refusal to comply with visitation or custody rights.
  • Refusing to allow visitation for non-payment of child>
  • Deliberate acts deemed to foster parental alienation.
  • Interfering with normal communications between non-custodial parent and child(ren).
  • Non-custodial parent missing visitation or failing to comply with pickup/return schedules.

Enforcement of Court Orders

Per the website, "If a parent does not obey a support order, he or she may be found in contempt of court. A contempt action may be filed against the NCP (non-custodial parent) who fails to make support payments or does not maintain the required medical insurance. NCPs found in contempt of court may be fined, sentenced to jail, or both."2 If you need help with an enforcement action you should contact a family law attorney at 770-956-1400.

Child Support Enforcement

As part of resolving a contempt matter concerning child support the court has several options. Child support order may also be enforced through one of the following actions:

  • Withholding child support from paychecks, unemployment or weekly worker’s compensation benefits
  • Offsetting federal and/or state income tax refunds
  • Reporting the parent’s delinquent child support payments to the three credit reporting bureaus
  • Suspension or revocation of a NCP’s drivers’, professional, occupational or recreational hunting or fishing licenses for their failure to pay child support as ordered
  • Intercepting lottery winnings when they exceed $2,500
  • Filing contempt actions in the superior court which may result in a jail sentence if the NCP is found to be in contempt of court
  • Filing of liens to seize matched bank accounts, lump sum worker’s compensation settlements and real or personal property
  • Denial, suspension or revocation of the passport of someone who owes more than $2,500 in child support

Contempt of Court Georga Penalty

What are potential punishments? Depending upon the severity of the situation a judge can impose a fine and/or jail time. Certain circumstances can bring criminal charges and punishments.

Per the website, "Non-custodial parents can be charged with a crime if they intentionally keep a child after the end of a scheduled visitation time. If the crime happens in Georgia, it’s a misdemeanor for the first two offenses but a felony for the third offense. If the noncustodial parent takes the child across state lines while committing the crime, it’s a felony even for a first offense. (Ga. Code § 16-5-45(b), (c) (2023).)" 3

How to File a Contempt of Court in Georgia

Your family law attorney, or divorce lawyer, can prepare and file a motion for contempt. The motion for contempt needs to include specific information to convey why the motion is justified. While the legal paperwork for any county is similar, it should provide tangible specifics as to what requirement is being violated. For example, court ordered child support has not been paid for 3 months. The court may require the filing party to provide documentation to substantiate the claim.

The party accused of contempt may provide documentation to disprove the claim or otherwise explain their challenges in meeting the requirement. If the accused party is found to be in contempt, but has a legitimate explanation, this could result in a divorce settlement modification.

What if you’ve been wrongly accused of contempt?

Sometimes divorced parents of minor children can never develop an amicable post-divorce relationship. In some of these situations a person may have an ex-spouse who lives for drama and conflict. Sometimes this means a vengeful ex-spouse may want to file harrassment actions to punish their ex-partner with a needless motion for contempt. If you have been wrongly accused of contempt you need to contact a family law attorney to fight contempt of court charges.

If you are dealing with divorce related contempt issues, or need to fight a motion for contempt, we can help you. Reach out to a family law and divorce attorney at 770-956-1400.


  • 1 Susan Buckner, "Divorce Settlement Agreements and Court Approval", July 23, 2023, Available from
  • 2 Staff Writer, "Collect A Child Support Payment", April 7, 2023, Available from
  • 3 Joseph Pandolfi, "Violation of Custody and Visitation Orders in Georgia ", July 26, 2013, Available from
  • Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova, available at Pexels
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    • Lindsey
    • August 2, 2023
    • Reply

    Some of these things should be changed. A mother should be able to stop visitation if the father is behind on child support. Why can somebody not pay child support and the other parent can go to jail?

    • Devin
    • March 13, 2024
    • Reply

    If you’re in jeopardy of contempt charges, def hire a lawyer. Without somebody handling it for you things can get out of control quick. Jail is no place to be.

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