Ditzel on Contempt



Contempt/Enforcement of Orders FAQs     

What is Contempt?
Contempt means the willful violation of a Court Order.

What are the defenses to Contempt?
Either that you did not violate the Court Order, or that the violation was not willful.

What are Contempt cases usually about in family law?
They are usually about failure to comply with an Order requiring support payments (either alimony or child support). They can also be about the failure to follow Orders relating to custody or visitation.

What happens if the Court finds that someone is in Contempt?
The offender can be ordered to cooperate or face incarceration The Court can even order incarceration until cooperation begins. This may mean payment of all or part of the support owed, or cooperation on terms of custody or visitation. The Court can also require the offender to pay the other side's attorney's fees.

Can the Court punish someone for Contempt?
Yes. The Court can not only take steps to ensure cooperation, it can also hold someone in criminal Contempt and punish them by making them pay a fine and/or serve up to twenty days in jail for each violation, as punishment (even if they decide to cooperate or pay all owed monies).

Is Contempt the only way to enforce a Court Order?
For the collection of arrears (past due support), there are other methods for collection such as garnishment of bank accounts, wages and other assets. Property of the payor can also be attached.

How long does a Contempt case take?
Typically Contempt cases are quicker than divorce or other family law cases since they focus on one or two straightforward issues (was there a violation of an Order and what should the Court do about it).

What if I am falsely accused of Contempt?
If the Court believes you have been falsely accused, the Court may order the opposing party to pay your lawyer's fees.

How do I prevent being falsely accused?
Keep good records and receipts. Bring witnesses to visitation exchanges.

Is it worth filing for Contempt?
It depends on how important it is to you that the other side abide by the Court Order. You should not rely on the other side being ordered to pay your fees. This way, you can decide if it is worth it to you to pay a lawyer (or try yourself) to file a Contempt.

Do I need a lawyer if I am accused of Contempt?
It is almost always better to have a lawyer, especially when you stand a chance of going to jail or being ordered to pay money. You should at least consult with a knowledgeable attorney to determine your risks.

Does the same judge who heard the original case also hear the Contempt case?
Usually the same judge who dealt with the case which resulted in the Order now possibly being violated will handle the Contempt case. Some exceptions exist for instance, when both parties move and a Court in another state is asked to enforce the Order. Or when a modification is being held in a new county in Georgia and the person filing the Contempt asks to have a Contempt handled in that new county in Georgia in conjunction with the modification.

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