Enforcement and Contempt
When a Florida family court judge enters an order, the parties in the case are required to comply with it. Violating a court order for a parenting plan, spousal or child support, or any other family law matter can have consequences for the non-compliant party. If you are owed alimony or child support payments, or if your ex interferes with your visitation rights, you may ask the court to hold the other party in contempt and enforce the order. At Ellis and Bryant, our Jacksonville family law lawyers handle a range of enforcement and contempt issues. Whether you are seeking enforcement of a court order, or you are defending against a contempt motion, we can provide compassionate and diligent legal representation.The Enforcement and Contempt Process in Florida
In family law cases, a judge may decide issues relating to the parties’ divorce, parenting plan, child support obligations, and other matters. These decisions, as well as approved settlement agreements, are generally entered as court orders. The parties are required to comply with their respective duties and obligations as provided in the court order. If one party believes that the other party has disobeyed a court order, the aggrieved party may file a motion with the court to hold the non-compliant party in civil contempt. Common reasons for filing a contempt motion include failing to pay child or spousal support, preventing visitation rights, refusing to transfer property subject to equitable distribution, and violating a restraining order.
When filing a civil contempt motion, the petitioner must serve the other party with a copy of the motion and notice of the date and time of the contempt hearing. An attorney can assist them with making sure that the other party is properly served. The person filing the motion has the burden to prove that the other party violated the court order or judgment. This typically requires the aggrieved party to show that:
- A valid court order imposed a clearly defined obligation
- The other party had knowledge of the court order
- The other party had the ability to comply with the court order
- The other party willfully disobeyed the court order
At the hearing, the other party has the opportunity to offer evidence that they were unable to comply with the order or that they did not intend to violate the order. If the court finds that there is sufficient evidence to hold the other party in contempt, the court may impose sanctions and other relief to compel compliance with the original order.Enforcement Options Available in Florida
If a person fails to obey a court order, the court may issue an order to enforce or compel compliance with the original order. In addition, the court has the authority to order other types of relief and utilize enforcement tools when appropriate under the facts of the case. These may include compensatory or coercive fines, the payment of attorney fees and court costs in connection with the motion, a monetary judgment with prejudgment interest, garnishment of wages, automatic deduction of support payments, a writ of possession for real property, incarceration with a purge, mandatory counseling, and more.
Typically, the relief provided by the court is adapted to the circumstances of the violation. For example, a violation of a parenting plan may be remedied by an order granting the aggrieved party additional time with the child. Pursuant to the Florida Child Support Enforcement Program, child support arrearages may be collected through more aggressive means, such as liens or a license suspension.Seek Guidance Regarding Enforcement and Contempt from a Jacksonville Lawyer
If you need advice about a violation of a Florida court order, the attorneys at Ellis and Bryant can explain your options. We represent individuals in family law matters throughout Duval and Clay Counties, including in Jacksonville, Middleburg, Orange Park, Jacksonville Beach, and many other locations. To request a free consultation with a knowledgeable divorce attorney, contact Ellis and Bryant online or by phone at (904) 551-4120.