“In contempt of court” has a daunting ring to it. However, if your co-parent is refusing to abide by your child custody order when they’re fully able to do so, that’s what they are.
You’d probably prefer to resolve the situation with your ex on your own. That’s typically best for everyone involved — including your children. Yet, if a parent repeatedly refuses to adhere to the terms of your custody agreement and parenting plan or if they repeatedly are negligent about picking up and returning the kids when they’re supposed to, it can place you and your kids in a constant state of uncertainty and chaos.
When that happens, you may have the option to initiate civil contempt proceedings. What is necessary for this move?
Typically, the person being held in contempt has to willfully breach the terms of a current court order multiple times. If a parent isn’t able to adhere to the terms because — for example — their work hours have changed, that likely wouldn’t rise to the level of contempt. If a custody agreement or parenting plan isn’t specific, it might also be more difficult to hold them in contempt.
If a parent is held in contempt and still refuses to start following the court order, they could face sanctions. These are often financial. However, a judge could make changes to the custody order that would minimize their rights.
Being found in contempt of a child support order can have serious financial consequences. If a parent is failing to pay court-ordered child support when there aren’t extenuating circumstances, e.g., a job loss, they could have their wages garnished.
If you’re having difficulty with your co-parent adhering to the terms of your child custody and/or support order, it’s wise to talk with your family law attorney as soon as possible to determine your options. You owe it to your children to ensure that their lives are as stable and anxiety-free as possible.