Contempt of Court

Lake Charles Contempt of Court Attorneys

Contempt of court, or just “contempt”, refers to intentionally disobeying a court order. In Louisiana family law, contempt is used as a severe remedy in cases where one parent does not follow a court order related to issues such as child custody or child support. 

If you are facing contempt or want to bring a motion for contempt of court against the other party who has violated a court order, work with an experienced family law attorney in Lake Charles, LA to navigate this complex legal landscape. At The Johnson Firm, we represent both parties in contempt of court in family law. 

Violating a Child Custody Order is a Not Legal

Both parties are held to the terms of a court order in family law, including child support and child custody. If a parent violates a court order, it can be considered an illegal act and may result in arrest and other penalties. 

The typical court-ordered custody agreement determines if joint or sole custody is in the child’s best interest and may specify a visitation arrangement with specific times and days each parent has the child. It may also have terms about which parent can make decisions about the child’s religion, health care, nutrition, education, and day-to-day activities. 

There are many ways a parent can face contempt in a family law case, such as failing to return the child to the other parent at the end of their scheduled visitation or refusing to allow court-ordered visitation. 

When someone is found in contempt of a court order, the court will take steps to encourage the rule is followed in the future. This may include counseling, parenting classes, future hearings, make-up time with the child, awarding attorney’s fees, and/or ordering a civil penalty or fine. Penalties may be more significant for subsequent contempt violations. 

Depending on the number and type of violations, the other parent may even lose custody of the child, face reduced visitation, or be required to submit to court-supervised visitation. 

Contempt of court motions are usually filed in child custody cases for failing to pay child support. Failing to keep up with child support and not notifying the court to request modification can be penalized. 

What to Do if a Parent Violates a Custody Order

If the other parent violates a custody order, the first and most crucial step is to decide if you need to call the police. You should call 911 if you do not know where your child is or believe the child to be in danger. If it’s not an emergency, the situation can be handled without police, but filing a motion for contempt may be a good idea if the violation is egregious, inexcusable, and/or frequent. 

Understanding a Motion for Contempt of Court

A motion for contempt of court is an allegation that the other parent has violated the court’s custody order in your case. You must serve the motion on the parent, who has a limited time to respond to the claim. 

A hearing will be set during which you will present your argument. You will need to present evidence and information that shows the parent violated the custody order. You may also call witnesses to testify. 

You will need to show that a court order is in effect, the other parent knows about the order, there was a plain violation, you gave notice of the hearing, and that contempt is an appropriate remedy. You’ll also need to show the breach was in bad faith, there was intentional misconduct, or prior sanctions haven’t made the other parent obey the court order. 

The other parent will have a chance to defend themselves if they have a reasonable excuse for violating the order. 

Alternatives to Contempt

Contempt isn’t the best course of action in every case. If the other parent has been late dropping off your child or otherwise violating the agreement, there may be alternatives. If the court order isn’t clear enough, it may also be better to request that the court order be clarified. 

Before filing a motion for contempt of court with the help of a family law lawyer in Lake Charles, it’s a good idea to send a demand letter to the other parent first. Doing so demonstrates good faith to the court, proves the other party knows about the court’s order, and allows the other parent to correct the violations. 

The letter should be short but polite. For example, if the parent is behind on child support payments, the letter can state that they are behind X number of months, and you want to give them a chance to catch up before taking action through the court. Of course, your Lake Charles family law attorney can help draft such a letter.

If a polite demand letter does not work, a motion to clarify can be used if the court order is too vague, such as requiring “reasonable visitation” or a motion to modify the order. 

We recommend asking the following before filing a motion for contempt of court: 

  • Is the order still in effect?
  • Have you met all of your responsibilities and duties under the order? 
  • Are the other parent’s responsibilities clearly described in the order? 
  • Do you have sufficient proof the other parent violated the order? 
  • Does the other parent have a reasonable excuse for the violation? 
  • Are there alternatives that would be a better choice? 

If you file a motion for contempt of court, keep in mind the risks and consequences. Court takes an emotional toll on involved parties. Judges do not like it when parents take each other to court over small or seemingly insignificant issues, so reserve this step for significant problems. If you haven’t obeyed the court order, the other party can also respond to the motion with their own contempt motion. 

Defending a Contempt Motion

Have you been served with a motion of contempt? This can be emotionally devastating and frustrating, especially if you believe you have acted in good faith according to the court order. 

An experienced Lake Charles family law attorney can represent you in court and help you defend yourself against the contempt motion. There are many possible defenses, such as: 

  • The order is invalid or you did not receive legal notice in your original case. 
  • You did not violate the court order. Perhaps you have proof that you paid child support to defend a motion for back support or you can show that you have dropped off your child at the designated time. 
  • You did not know about the order since you did not receive proper notice of the hearing.
  • The court order is unclear or has multiple potential meanings. 
  • You violated the order, but you have a reasonable excuse. You will need to prove a lack of ability or a good reason for violating the order, such as illness, your car broke down, or a flight was canceled. If the motion relates to child support, you may need to show that you have tried to seek work, save money, or otherwise fulfill your obligation. 

It isn’t enough to say you don’t agree with the order, do not believe it’s fair, or trusted the other parent if they said they wouldn’t enforce it. 

Contact a Lake Charles Family Law Attorney

Contempt of court is a serious action to get the other parent to follow a court order. Depending on the severity of the violation and whether there is a history of violations, the other parent may face a loss of custody, financial penalties, reduced visitation, and other penalties. 

If you are considering filing a motion of contempt against an ex in a child custody or support case, or are facing contempt, contact The Johnson Firm today. We represent parties on both sides in complicated contempt of court cases to seek the best possible resolution. 

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