Contempt and Enforcement of Family Law Orders

Enforce Massachusetts Child Support and Custody Orders

When any temporary order or final judgment of divorce is signed by one of the Bristol, Plymouth or Barnstable County judges, it becomes an enforceable court order. So what happens when one or the other spouse does not do what he or she is supposed to do under that court order? The innocent spouse has to take an affirmative step of filing a complaint for contempt in order for the court to enforce its order.

To be held in contempt, there must be a finding that there is a clear and unequivocal order of the court, that one of the parties has made a clear and undoubted violation or has failed to comply with the order, and that the person charged with contempt had the ability and means to comply. The offender can be ordered to cooperate, face incarceration, and pay the innocent spouse's attorney's fees.

Once an Agreement Becomes a Court Order, Only a Court Can Change It

When the judge incorporates an agreement and makes it an order, parties are not at liberty to decide how much of it to abide by or whether to follow the letter of the law. Even if one party doesn't agree with how the other party is spending the child support money, it does not mean that monthly payments can decrease or stop.

If you are having difficulty collecting the child support or spousal maintenance money you are entitled to, you have the right to seek collections and enforcement measures through the courts. Start by talking to an attorney at Massachusetts Family Law Group. We aggressively pursue enforcement actions.

Tools Available to Enforce Court Orders

Depending on the type of order you are enforcing, tools available include:

Violations of Alimony Orders: Orders to pay spousal support have the same force as any other court order and, if handled properly, can be enforced with the very real possibility of obtaining regular payments. If necessary, a court may jail a reluctant payor to show that it means business.

Violations of Child Support Orders: Nonpayment of child support is as a serious national problem. No different than alimony enforcement, the court may order that the wrongdoer be incarcerated until payments are made.

Additionally, if the Department of Revenue is involved in the case, they prosecute deadbeat parents by using enforcement tools such as wage garnishment, driver's license suspension, tax refund intercept and others.

Violation of Property Division Orders: If your spouse refuses to transfer some item assigned to you, you can use the contempt remedy to force the transfer. The court may order your spouse to remain in jail until he or she hands over the property involved, or compel signature on a deed or other document.

Complaints for contempt can also be used in post-divorce enforcement actions when a parent refuses to cooperate with parenting-related issues, uses the children to pass messages to the other parent, or involves the children in contested divorce issues.

The Importance of Taking Action

In most cases, simply taking the preliminary steps toward enforcing your order can prevent a bad situation from getting worse. The worst thing you can do is endure unnecessary misery for months without taking any action: A mother having children live in poverty because support isn't being paid, or a dad having his heart broken because he isn't able to see the children, or a great offer to purchase the marital home collapses because your spouse won't sign the necessary papers. The longer you wait to have court orders enforced will expose you to financial loss, potential violence or both.

Are You Facing Issues of Contempt and Enforcement of Family Law Orders?

We also represent parties who have been accused of contempt of court orders. If you have been charged or threatened, don't wait to see what will happen next. Once charged, you face a criminal offense. Even paying your obligation won't make it go away. Talk to one of our attorneys to get sound advice and representation throughout the process.

Contact Us for Information About Contempt and Support Enforcement in Massachusetts

Our Plymouth law firm serves clients on Cape Cod and the South Shore counties of Bristol, Plymouth, Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket. Contact us at (800) 299-DIVORCE to learn how we can help you with any matter. We offer a free, no obligation consultation with an experienced Plymouth enforcement and contempt lawyer.