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Contempt of court in family law cases occurs when a party has been ordered by a judge to do an act or take some action and fails to do the act or take the action. Contempt in the family law context is civil, rather than criminal, but can nevertheless result in imprisonment. Contempt can only occur after an order of court, not just following pleadings or recommendations by a master or suggestions from a judge that are not incorporated into an order. A master is a trier of fact. Hearings can be held before a master, but the master can make only recommendations which are then reviewed by a judge. Orders can be handed down only by judges; therefore, contempt can only arise after a judge has made a ruling, either directly or by review, and signs an order.
The most typical cases of contempt involve the non-payment of child support or alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance. Contempt can also be filed if a party fails to sell the marital home or other property, transfer title to property or cooperate in the visitation schedule ordered by the court.
If the other party in your case has been ordered to pay you support, either child support or spousal support, and does not make the payments as ordered, you can file for contempt of court requesting that the party be taken into custody and be made to purge the contempt by paying some or all of the money owed. The court will not order someone to purge his or her contempt by paying money he or she doesn’t have. It is therefore important to prove that the money owed is presently available, either in a bank account or otherwise. Your Maryland family law attorney will be able to get the information needed to prove the contempt and prove that the party has the money to purge the contempt.
If the other party fails to take an action other than pay money, he or she can also be found in contempt, but will rarely be imprisoned. The court may fashion a remedy that fits the non-performance, such as ordering a trustee to sell a piece of property when a party has refused or failed to do so. Your family law attorney at Lustig & Gudis, LLC will know what can be done in each specific situation.
Often non-custodial parents have difficulty getting the access to their children which has been ordered by the court. Although the other parent may be in contempt of court, the remedy may be a modification of custody or access. Even small changes can be helpful, such as having the non-custodial parent pick the children up from school rather than at the home of the custodial parent. Our family law lawyers have a great deal of experience handling cases where access is denied.