Going through a divorce can be an emotionally draining process. The hope is that once all of the issues (such as child support, spousal support, division of property and agreeing to a parenting schedule) are resolved, you can finally move forward. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case as the emotional baggage that accompanied the divorce can remain when dealing with an ex.
When you’re facing the frustrating reality that your ex simply won’t comply with your legally binding agreements, whether that be alimony payments or a parenting schedule, you have options. You can attempt dispute resolution through mediation or the collaborative law process. If those are not feasible options, you can file a complaint for contempt to address non-compliance with temporary orders and final judgments (so long as certain jurisdictional requirements are met). If one spouse has moved with the child outside of Massachusetts, you might have to file in the new state. Generally speaking, so long as one spouse remains in Massachusetts, financial issues can be addressed in the original Court where your divorce judgment issued.
Understanding the ins and out of contempt proceedings is an essential part of litigation in the Probate and Family Court, which is why working with an attorney is vital. Anyone found violating a court order, such as failing to pay child support, denying visitation, failing to abide by a parenting plan, etc., may be considered to be in contempt of court.
The court can enforce a defendant to comply with the order(s) in violation by issuing a contempt order for compliance or sanctions where compliance is not an option. To begin the process, a Complaint for Contempt must be filed through the Probate and Family Court that issued the order being violated (unless the Parties are no longer in Massachusetts). Next, the Court provides a Contempt Summons (this is a Court Order that instructs the defendant when they are expected in court. A deputy sheriff or constable will then serve the defendant with the original Summons and a copy of the Contempt Complaint. The Defendant may file an Answer within seven (7) days.
The burden of proof in Contempt Actions falls to the plaintiff. For help understanding your options when your ex, or soon to be ex, fails to comply with a court order, contact Berid & Schutzbank, LLC today.