Question:      What if the other parent does not pay the Court ordered child support?

The Court has great power to enforce its own orders.  Any time a party to a case in the Probate and Family Court (a) purposely disobeys (b) a clear order or Judgment, the other party has the right to seek a Judgment of “Contempt“ against the party who disobeyed the order/Judgment.

A Complaint for Contempt is a separate case, and a separate complaint form must be filed and served on the other person (“Defendant”).  In the case of a willful failure to pay child support, recipients will seek, and if the Court finds the payor purposely failed to pay support when he or she had the ability to pay, it will usually enter a Judgment of civil contempt.

At Bardsley and Gray, our lawyers have years of experience successfully enforcing Court orders and defending people who were unfairly brought before the Court on a Complaint for Contempt.

Question:      So what.  The judge found my ex in contempt.  But how do I collect the money s/he was supposed to be paying?

After a contempt Judgment for non payment of support is entered, the Court will order the payor (“contemnor”) to pay the money owed to the recipient (“cure” the contempt).  If the payor owes a lot of money, the judge may order payment of a portion of the amount owed, with an extra amount added to the weekly order until the balance owed is paid in full.   The Court can order a payor to jail for up to 90 consecutive days for a civil contempt if a person does not pay a child support order.  The payor could also lose his or her driver’s license and/or professional license if they have not paid child support.  The Court also may order the payor to pay the legal fees and other expenses incurred by the recipient.  This is because the payor, by willfully refusing to abide by the Court order, caused the recipient to hire a lawyer and enforce the Judgment.

Question:      How do I start a Complaint for Contempt?

The Law Office of Bardsley & Gray provides top quality legal services in the New Bedford, Fall River, Taunton and Bristol and Plymouth County areas for Plaintiffs and Defendants in Contempt cases.  The person bringing the complaint is known as the “Plaintiff”.  Your attorney will draft and file the complaint forms for you, or they are available at the Court. We carefully chose the wording and allegations when drafting a Complaint for Contempt.  Once the filing fee is paid and the Complaint is filed and “docketed” the Court will mail a “Summons” to the Plaintiff’s attorney or the self represented Plaintiff.  The Plaintiff’s attorney must then have a deputy sheriff or other duly authorized, “disinterested third party” deliver (“serve”) the Summons and Complaint upon the other party (“Defendant”).  We highly recommend that you consult with and hire a skilled attorney to analyze your case, draft a Complaint for Contempt, and represent your interest in a Contempt hearing.

Question:      What do I do if someone files a Complaint for Contempt against me?

You have options, but have a limited amount of time (stated on the Summons) to file and serve your “Answer” upon the Defendant.  Complaints and Answers are known as “Pleadings” in the Probate and Family Court.  They are governed by the Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure, as well as other rules the Court makes.  First, a Defendant must draft and serve an Answer to the Complaint.  The Defendant has a limited time from the date he/she is served with the complaint and summons to draft, file with the Probate and Family Court, and send an Answer (responsive pleading) to the Plaintiff.   We highly recommend that you consult with and hire a skilled attorney to draft an Answer and represent your interest in a Contempt hearing.

Question:      What is included in the Answer?

Answer:           The Answer should contain a response (generally an admission or denial) to each statement (Count) of the complaint.  Note that failure to each item alleged against you will within 20 days be treated as an admission.  We highly recommend that you consult with and hire a skilled attorney to draft an Answer and represent your interest in a Contempt hearing.

Question:      What if I don’t think I should be held in contempt for something I did or did not do?

Sometimes, you fail to do something the Court ordered you to (or not) do, but you have good reasons (defenses) for not following the order.

Contempt Defenses

Along with your answers to the counts of the complaint, you have the right to raise defenses as to why you are not in contempt.  Answers and defenses are technical pleadings.  Your attorney will help you determine and say what your defenses are.  A few general examples of defenses that may or may not apply to your case are: (a) failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted; (b) impossibility; or (c) the Court order as written was not clear and or unequivocal.  There are many defenses you can assert, but beware, some must be raised in the answer, because you cannot raise them later.  We highly recommend that you consult with and hire a skilled attorney to draft an Answer and represent your interest in a Contempt hearing.

Judgment/Remedies

Generally, the punishment (“remedy”) for failure to pay support is a Judgment of “civil” contempt. Sometimes, a Court will enter a Judgment of civil contempt on its own (sua sponte).  If a party’s behavior or continued failure to pay interferes with a judge’s ability to manage the Court, the judge may enter a Judgment of “criminal” contempt after a hearing.  We highly recommend that you consult with and hire a skilled attorney to draft an Answer and represent your interest in a Contempt hearing.

CategoryFamily Law

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