Fight Contempt in Georgia Divorce
Defense Lawyer for Contempt of Court
When certain divorce matters turn into serious arguments, your ex-spouse may file a motion for contempt of court. Learn what this means for you, and how to fight allegations of contempt of court.
What is Contempt in Georgia
A person can be charged with contempt when they are believed to be in violation of a standing court order. A person can be charged with contempt even if the underlying cause could be considered unavoidable. For example, losing your job (perhaps unavoidable) and not being able to pay child support (failure to comply) could be grounds for contempt.
Types of court orders that people often fail to follow are divorce settlement agreements, Parenting Plans, or other agreementa made by the parties that have been rendered into a formal decree and judgment.
In Georgia, a person can be found to be in Civil Contempt or Criminal Contempt.
Divorce matters are treated as civil contempt as it is viewed to be a willful disobedience of a court order (i.e., divorce settlement, parenting plan, etc.).
Civil Contempt in a Divorce
Contempt can be alleged when a person is failing to meet the terms of their divorce decree. The most common reasons an ex-spouse files a motion for contempt include:
- Failure to Pay Child Support. Whether or not you have valid reasons for being behind in payments, you are still held accountable for making payments.
- Failure to Pay Spousal Support. Whether or not you have valid reasons for being behind in payments, you are still held accountable for making payments.
- Failure to Adhere to Visitation Terms. Even if you think your spouse is being petty or unreasonable, a judge is going to compare your alleged behaviors to the terms of your divorce decree. Visitation terms that often lead to problems include disregarding restrictions during your children’s visit such as non-family members staying overnight, use of alcohol or illegal substances. Failing to get your children back on-time to the custodial parent is another common complaint.
What is the Penalty for Contempt of Court?
If found guilty, consequences may include a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or up to 20 days in jail. The court may also require the offending party to pay their ex-spouse’s court costs and lawyer’s fees.
Regarding confinement, a relevant paragraph from 2020 Georgia Code 15-1-4 on Extent of Contempt Power reads as follows:
“When a person who is gainfully employed violates an order of the court granting temporary or permanent alimony or child support and the judge finds the person in contempt of court, the sentencing judge may sentence the respondent to a term of confinement in a diversion center and participation in a diversion program if such a program has been established by a county pursuant to the provisions of Article 5 of Chapter 3 of Title 42.”
It’s worth noting that even after going through a contempt issue, you will still have to address the original issues in the motion. Time is not on your side when facing claims of contempt.
What to Do When Charged With Contempt
If you are expecting, or have been served, papers informing you that someone (your ex) is alleging contempt of court you need to call an experienced divorce contempt lawyer.
Once you have been served, you have only 30 days to respond to the motion. If you ignore the motion you are almost certainly going to find yourself in jail and still have to deal with the contempt charges.
Your lawyer can prepare and submit a formal response, and manage the process. Your lawyer can present reasons for any discrepancies, file a motion to dismiss, or otherwise seek an end to the conflict.
Can I fight it without a lawyer? Technically, yes, you can fight the contempt charge without the protection or knowledge of a licensed lawyer. However, the process involves preparing and filing a response, reply memorandum, affidavits and possibly other documentation. You can expect to make at least one court appearance, plus dealing with legal wrap-up of the matter. Realistically, the process is too complicated for the average person to manage and achieve a favorable outcome.
If you are dealing with a contempt problem we invite you to consult with a lawyer to discuss your situation. Your prompt action can save you from unnecessary trouble and consequences.
CREDITS and FOOTNOTES
- Photo by Andrea Piacquadio, available at PEXELS