Wednesday, April 02, 2014

My Ex-wife has not been following our court orders for visitation. Can I sue her for contempt of court?

Well, that depends.  

The Court where you had your original case would have the power to enforce its orders if they are not being followed.  There are two forms of contempt- direct (as in, you did something bad right in front of the judge) or indirect, where a party violates a written order.  In your case we are probably talking about indirect contempt.

 Another thing to know about contempt is that there are two types of punishment: coercive and punitive.  Coercive is designed to "persuade" the person to stop violating the order.  If for example, jail time is involved in the punishment, the person will be released once they start following the order.  In essence, they have the keys to their own cell.  In contrast, punitive is a situation where you have really P.O'ed the judge and her or she is gonna make you pay for it.  You can't get out of this type of punishment.  

From a lawyer's perspective, the handling of a contempt matter is highly technical and requires a  lot of skill and care.  Because a finding of contempt can carry some pretty heavy consequences, the law will provide your wife many procedural "outs".   There are a lot of ways that your ex-wife can weasel out of a contempt order and thumb her nose at you.  Most of these outs for your wife can arise is the underlying order was poorly drafted.  If it was in any way vague, or has any technical flaws, the court will not be able to find contempt.  I recommend you seek and experienced lawyer with at least several years working exclusively in family law, like myself.