Divorce can be one of the most difficult experiences of your life. Unfortunately, once you have your divorce decree in hand, your relationship with your ex may not be entirely over. This is especially true if the two of you have children together, and a child custody agreement is part of your divorce order. Regardless of how your divorce proceedings unfolded, it will end with a family court order with clear terms for your post-divorce rights and responsibilities. Violating these terms carries severe legal consequences.
If you believe y erienced Kansas City, MO family law attorney is an ideal resource in this situation. In most cases, it is best to work with the same lawyer who represented you during your divorce proceedings. This lawyer will already be familiar with the details of your situation and the terms of your divorce decree.
How Divorce Decrees Work
It is rare for a couple to divorce, obtain their divorce decree, and subsequently never see or hear from one another ever again. In fact, this situation is usually only possible for couples who were only married for a brief time, have minimal commingled marital assets, and no children. In most cases, it is inevitable for divorced spouses to need to interact with one another on some level following the end of their marriage.
Your divorce decree includes various terms and conditions for your divorce and the time afterward. Depending on the nature of your divorce, whether you and your ex have children together, and how the court ruled on division of your marital property, you may need to revisit the issue in court at a later date. This is especially true if your ex violates any terms of your divorce decree.
Regardless of whether you litigated the matter in court or took advantage of alternative dispute resolution like mediation, the terms of your divorce decree are legally binding. If you came to mutually agreeable terms through mediation, it is likely that you reached a mutual understanding. Because of this, there is a much lower chance of future divorce order violations. However, if you could not agree and the court decided for the two of you, divorce decree violations are more likely to arise.
Understanding Contempt of Court
The most prescribed penalty for violation of a divorce order is for the violating party to face contempt of court. This penalty applies when an individual bound by a court order willfully violates a valid court order of which they had knowledge. When it comes to divorce, petitioning the court to hold the violating party in contempt can serve two valuable purposes. It can either compel the violating party to comply with the order or punish them for their willful violation of a valid court order.
If you believe your former spouse has violated the terms of your divorce order, begin by submitting an Order to Show Cause, an Affidavit for Contempt, and an Affidavit of Facts Constituting Contempt to the Kansas City, MO family court. These documents will provide all necessary information to the court so they may begin contempt proceedings. An experienced attorney can guide you through the process of completing and filing these forms.
How Soon Can Someone File Contempt of Court Documents?
It is possible to file documents in response to multiple violations as the situation demands. However, the petitioning party must provide the court with solid evidence of each claimed violation and sound reasoning as to why the petitioner believes the violating party should face contempt of court. Typically, the time limit for filing contempt proceedings is two years from the date the violation in question occurred. However, the statute of limitations for failure to pay court-ordered financial support is typically extended to three years from the date the payment in question was due.
Once the petitioner files the necessary paperwork to begin contempt proceedings, the court will formally serve Notice to the violating party and set a hearing date. Facing contempt of court is not a criminal matter. However, if the Respondent fails to appear for this hearing, they will likely face arrest and criminal prosecution beyond the scope of contempt of court.
What Does Contempt of Court Entail?
Many situations can lead to contempt proceedings, including:
- Failure to pay court-ordered child support.
- Violating the terms of a child custody order.
- Failure to pay court-ordered alimony.
- Failure to remit payment for attorneys’ fees.
- Violating a valid restraining order.
- Nonpayment of relevant debts.
Individuals found responsible for such violations will likely face contempt of court. In Missouri, the penalties for contempt of court can include severe fines, imprisonment, or both. Ultimately, the judge reviewing the case will have the final say in the violating party’s punishment. Less severe violations of a family court order may lead to the court compelling the violator to comply with the terms of the order and pay a fine. More severe violations, such as willfully violating a child custody order, could lead to the violating party losing their custody rights and facing imprisonment.
Responding to Contempt of Court Accusations
Whether your former spouse has violated a court order or you have been accused of violating a legally valid court order yourself, it is essential to seek legal representation as soon as possible. While contempt proceedings are not necessarily a criminal matter, you do have the right to legal representation provided by the court if you cannot afford your own private attorney.
It is possible that you may have violated your court order with a good reason or that the petitioner has filed contempt proceedings against you wrongfully or without cause. It is your responsibility to make your case before the judge. If you have been wrongfully accused of violating the terms of a family court order or believe your ex has initiated contempt proceedings against you in bad faith, it is crucial to secure legal representation from a reliable Kansas City, MO family law attorney. Seek representation as soon as possible so you can navigate this matter with more confidence.