Brentwood Enforcement and Contempt Attorney
When they hear the term “contempt of court” many people imagine witnesses having sudden outbursts in the courtroom. While this can happen, the reality is that people can be served with a contempt action any time they disregard a court order, whether it occurs in or out of the courtroom. Judges can even hold people in contempt for failing to pay child support, refusing to honor a custody agreement, or failing to pay alimony. These kinds of contempt cases can quickly become complicated. There may, for instance, be extenuating circumstances that explain why one parent was unable to comply with the court order (i.e. an accident or serious illness), while in other cases, one of the parties may be knowingly defying the order. In either case, the parties should work with an experienced Brentwood enforcement and contempt lawyer who can help protect their legal rights and interests.
Types of Contempt Actions
There are two types of contempt actions in Tennessee: criminal proceedings and civil proceedings. Criminal contempt is a charge alleging that someone intentionally violated a family court order. If found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, an offender is given a specific punishment, which could include jail time. Civil contempt of court, on the other hand, is a bit different. Unlike criminal contempt, a person need only prove that it is more likely than not that someone willfully violated the order. The punishment for civil contempt is forcing the offender to comply with the original order, which could mean paying child support, alimony, or adhering to a custody agreement.
Issues that Could Result in a Contempt of Court Ruling
Most family law-related contempt cases involve someone’s failure to:
- Pay child support;
- Pay alimony;
- Allow visitation as ordered in a parenting plan;
- Return a child to the other parent after visitation;
- Turn over marital assets granted in a divorce agreement; or
- Comply with a restraining order.
In these cases, wronged parties have the right to seek relief through the court by filing a Petition for Contempt. At this point, the wronged person will need to prove that the noncompliant individual:
- Knew about the existence of the court order in question;
- Knowingly violated that court order despite being able to comply with it; and
- Didn’t have a valid excuse for failing to comply with the order.
If found to have violated a court order under this standard, the court can move forward with enforcement proceedings, which could mean that the non-complying party can have his or her wages and tax refunds withheld and can be forced to pay additional fines. If a case involves a failure to abide by a custody arrangement, the court could even order supervised visitation to force a parent to comply with the order.
Contact Our Brentwood Enforcement and Contempt Attorneys
To schedule a consultation with one of the dedicated Brentwood enforcement and contempt lawyers at Beal, Nations & Crutcher, call us at 615-861-2304 or fill out our online contact form today.