When a party violates a court order, the other party may file a petition or motion for enforcement or for contempt of court. An enforcement motion is a request that the court order the disobedient party to comply with the original court order. The court may impose sanctions, and it may require the offending party to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees. A petition for contempt of court may further expose the disobedient party to sanctions or penalties, both civil and criminal.
A family court judge is given great discretion on how to handle the violation of court orders. The remedy which the judge applies depends on the nature of the violation. For example, if a party violates an order to pay alimony or child support, the judge may enter a judgment against him or her, and require him or her to pay interest on the judgment. The judge may also assess the amount of overdue payments and order him or her to pay arrearages. In extreme cases, a court may suspend the license of the defaulting party, and this includes driver’s licenses, occupational licenses, and recreational licenses. A court may impose other economic sanctions such as a fine. For repeat offenders or willfully disobedient parties, the court may order detention or incarceration until the outstanding alimony or child support is paid.
For parties who violate child custody orders, the court may award the non-custodial parent with compensatory time with the children. The court may require the disobedient party to change his or her pickup and drop-off locations, or may order him or her to pay for counseling for the parents or the children, if appropriate. In some cases, a court may simply suspend visitation rights or transfer custody, and it may require the offending parent to take a parenting class or to participate in other community service programs. As with all violations, a court may impose financial sanctions, including fines and awards of attorney’s fees.
Sanctions and penalties may also be imposed upon a party who violates a domestic violence restraining order or protection order. In some states, the violation of a restraining order or a protection order can result in criminal charges, which may lead to fines and incarceration. Even the civil penalties can be stiff in a domestic violence case where an order has been disobeyed: economic sanctions; modification of parenting time; additional restraints; court costs and attorney’s fees. If you require assistance to enforce a court order that is being violated, or if you are being falsely charged with such a violation, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick.