Consulting an Ohio Attorney for Contempt Proceedings and Enforcement
Filing a contempt case feels overwhelming, especially if you and your ex-partner have a history of high conflict.
At Joslyn Law Firm, we are prepared to handle the most challenging family law cases, including Ohio contempt proceedings. As a top family law firm in the state of Ohio, we believe in going above and beyond for our clients, a belief that is reflected in the firm’s numerous Honors and Awards.
In 2015 and 2016, Joslyn Law Firm was awarded one of the 10 Best firms for client satisfaction.
Managing legal counsel, Brian Joslyn, has been selected for several prestigious awards during his career, including being designated as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association and Best Attorney of America by Rue Ratings.
When you hire Joslyn Law Firm, you will feel at ease knowing you are represented by some of Ohio’s finest lawyers. Call our office today at (614) 420-2424 to schedule your free consultation or contact us online.
Overview of Contempt Proceedings for Child Custody, Child Support, and Divorce Cases in Ohio
- What Is Needed to Prove Contempt?
- When Should I File a Contempt Proceeding?
- How Do Contempt Proceedings Work?
- How Do Courts Penalize Those Found in Contempt?
- Hiring an Ohio Lawyer for Contempt Proceedings and Enforcement
What Is Needed to Prove Contempt?
In Ohio, civil contempt requires that one party disobey or disregard the court order. It is not required that the person intentionally or willfully violated the order.
This makes it a little easier for the person filing the contempt action since proving intent can be difficult.
For example, if you and your ex-partner have a court order that outlines child support and parenting time, but your ex-partner has failed to pay child support or refused your parenting time, there are two violations of the court order.
It does not matter whether your ex-partner intentionally failed to pay child support or provide you with your holiday parenting time. This is true even if you are certain that your ex-partner did not comply with the order to purposefully irritate you.
For a successful contempt case, you must prove with sufficient evidence that your ex-spouse or ex-partner:
- Had knowledge of the court order;
- Had the ability to comply with the court order; and
- Does not have a valid defense or excuse for not complying with the court order.
If you can prove that your ex-spouse received a copy of the court order, for example, by proof of service, your ex-spouse likely had knowledge of the court order.
Other forms of proof include documented communication, such as text messages or emails indicating that your ex-partner knew about the court order. Some individuals have a difficult time proving knowledge if there is no proof of service, there is a lack of communication between spouses, or one spouse cannot locate the other spouse.
These problems are more likely to arise in situations where a parent repeatedly fails to pay child support.
However, your family law attorney can help you gather and present the evidence necessary to prove knowledge.
Ability to Comply
Although it may appear obvious, anyone required to abide by a court order must have the ability to follow the terms and requirements set forth by the order. The ability to comply with an order may arise in custody and parenting time disagreements, as well as spousal and child support disputes.
When a court originally issued the order, it was based on a finding that both parties had the ability or means to comply with the order.
For example, if you are both responsible for dropping off the children at the other parent’s home at the end of your parenting time, then the court order either directly or indirectly indicated that you both had the ability to drive your children.
As another example, if your ex-spouse repeatedly fails to drop off the children, despite having several available methods, then your ex-spouse might have the ability to comply.
It is important to review your specific, unique facts with a qualified attorney since a person’s ability to comply may depend on several factors.
Excuse for Noncompliance
The ability to comply and excuses for failing to comply can sometimes go hand-in-hand.
If your ex-partner did not have the ability to comply with a court order, he or she might have a valid defense or excuse. However, excuses, especially after repeated occurrences of noncompliance, are more difficult to maintain over time.
Regardless of the number of times that your ex-partner has failed to comply with a court order, the burden is on your ex-partner to prove that any defense or excuse is valid.
For example, if your ex-spouse is ordered to pay spousal support but lost their job. If your spouse can provide proof of job loss with supporting evidence, a court might find the presence of a valid excuse for not paying spousal support.
As with knowledge and ability to comply, contempt cases are highly fact-specific.
When Should I File a Contempt Proceeding?
If you are desperate for the court order to be followed, it might be tempting to immediately file a contempt action.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind before making any decisions.
First, it is important to understand that a contempt proceeding is generally not the first solution to forcing compliance with a court order. Although a single violation is enough to file a contempt action, the hearings are far more common when one person has repeatedly failed to follow a court order rather than a single failure.
For example, a contempt proceeding for failure to pay spousal support or child support once or twice, or even late, might be a drastic first approach. Instead, repeated failure to pay either spousal or child support is the most likely cause for concern, and a contempt action is a more reasonable pursuit.
Second, for reasons explained below, notifying your ex-partner about the missed payment or violation of parenting time or custody before you file a contempt action is more likely to help you in the long run.
Communicate With Your Ex-partner Before Filing a Contempt Action
Those involved in any kind of family court dispute, whether for divorce or child custody, must remember that courts want ex-partners to make every effort to resolve issues before using the court system.
Many clients do not like or want to hear that they should notify their ex-partners about any failure to follow a court order.
Their frustrations are completely understandable. Often, both divorced spouses or parents are fully aware of the court order and any underlying details. At the least, they are both likely aware that a court order exists, but one of them either has not read the order or does not care about or even understand the details.
If these situations sound familiar to you, know that you are not alone.
Still, it is usually better to avoid or postpone a visit to the courthouse and to document communication with an ex-partner and inform them of the issue and their related failures.
For people who do not like to communicate or struggle to communicate effectively, the thought of a tone-neutral conversation about an issue in a court order is difficult.
Yet, there may be a simpler solution to these kinds of problems, such as misunderstanding the court order or forgetting to comply with it.
Why Is Communicating With My Ex-Partner So Important For Contempt Proceedings?
In addition to courts wanting ex-partners to communicate amicably, it is most beneficial if you need to later file a contempt proceeding. Although every case is unique, one strategy used in contempt proceedings is evidence of communication.
Individuals who have strong, written documentation to show that every effort has been made to communicate with the other person are more likely to have a successful case.
For example, if you have time-stamped text messages, emails, or other forms of written communication that clearly state the purpose for the communication and your request, you can have an easier time showing that you made every effort to communicate with your ex-partner.
If you have been unsuccessful in communicating with the other party, a judicial officer is more likely to believe that contempt is necessary to enforce the underlying failure to follow the relevant court order.
Social Media As A Method For Communicating With Your Ex-partner
In modern times, social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and many others have become increasingly common communication methods. Although they may provide benefits and entertainment, they are not the best places to notify your ex-partner of any failure to abide by a court order.
It is true that “method of communication” is not necessarily applicable to a contempt proceeding.
However, family law courts have seen an influx of intense and public conversations or aggressive messages exchanged through messenger applications.
If your court order specifies a communication method, such as texting, emailing, or Our Family Wizard, it is best to use those communication methods. If there is a particular communication method that has worked well for you, such as email, you can likely communicate your concerns about the court order in this fashion.
Communication and No Contact Orders
The exception to communication is when ex-partners are court-ordered to avoid each other, typically through a domestic violence protective order or another type of no-contact order.
If you and your ex-partner have a no-contact order in place and your ex-partner is not following the court order, it is best to consult a family law attorney for advice and guidance.
If you are unsure whether it is appropriate to file a contempt action, working with a skilled family law attorney can help you make this determination.
How Do Contempt Proceedings Work?
Contempt proceedings are started by filing a motion and supporting documentation in the Court of Common Pleas. The motion must request the court to order the opposing party to attend a contempt hearing.
It is important to work with your attorney to ensure there are enough facts that support why the other party should be ordered to appear at the hearing.
Contempt cases for child support can be started by either the individual who is supposed to receive payments or the Ohio Child Support Enforcement Agency.
After the claim is filed, the opposing party is served with the complaint alleging the violation and a summons to appear at a contempt hearing. The court notifies the person summoned of the possible penalties and the right to an attorney.
At the hearing, both parties will appear to present their arguments, and the judge will make a decision and issue an order based on these arguments.
How Do Courts Penalize Those Found in Contempt?
Judges who find that someone has failed to obey a court order may impose punishment.
The severity of punishments is at a judge’s discretion with penalties often increasing with the severity of the violation.
Penalties for contempt can include:
- Jail time;
- Revocation of driver’s license;
- Makeup parenting time for the parent who missed time with their children; and
- Other punishments the court finds appropriate based on the circumstances.
Some penalties will not apply in certain cases, and a judge might find that others are inappropriate in others, depending on the circumstances.
A contempt order also does not waive any obligations for past or future payments or any requirements to follow court-ordered custody and parenting time orders.
For example, if your ex-spouse has not paid any child support for five months and is later found in contempt, your ex-spouse remains obligated to pay five months of child support as well as all future payments.
Hiring an Ohio Lawyer for Contempt Proceedings and Enforcement
To learn more about contempt of court, it is best to consult with a contempt proceedings lawyer as soon as possible.
The legal team at Joslyn Law Firm is ready to meet with you and thoroughly review your case, including the implications of a contempt motion or contempt proceeding.
Reviews of Our Ohio Contempt Attorneys
Read this 5-star Google review below regarding a complex child custody case in Columbus OH
“I have a complex custody case, and had no idea where to start. I started researching family law attorneys in Columbus and found Joslyn Law Firm. I spoke with Ashley Dollins and after listening to my entire story she gave me very good advice on what I need to do. She was so kind and patient and I am very grateful she is the first person I spoke with regarding getting to see my daughter again. It is clear she is very knowledgeable regarding family law cases, especially a highly complicated case as mine.”
By: Matthew Neiman
Rating: 5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
September 22, 2021
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This page was last updated by Brian Joslyn