One of the most challenging parts about getting a divorce is coming to an agreement with your spouse about the terms of the divorce, such as how property will be divided, whether alimony will be part of the divorce settlement, and what custody of shared children will look like. Perhaps even more frustrating, though, is the failure of your ex to follow the court’s order after the divorce has been finalized. If this happens to you, you may have the opportunity to file what’s known as a complaint for contempt. At the Law Office of Heather M. Ward, our Massachusetts divorce lawyer can help. Call today to learn more.
What Is a Complaint for Contempt?
A complaint for contempt is a legal document that is filed with the court when a party to a divorce settlement fails to comply with a court-ordered mandate. For example, if your ex fails to pay alimony or child support, does not comply with a parenting/visitation schedule, or otherwise fails to comply with a court mandate (i.e. failure to pay their half of bills or a mortgage), then you can take them to court by filing a complaint for contempt.
Note that a complaint for contempt is a civil complaint and does not have criminal bearing.
What Do You Need to Prove When Filing a Complaint for Contempt?
If you file a complaint for contempt, the burden will be on you to prove that contempt has occurred. As such, you will be required to provide the court with “clear and convincing evidence of disobedience of a clear and unequivocal command.” The burden of proof in a civil case is “a preponderance of the evidence.” This essentially means that the burden is on the person bringing forth the complaint to show that it is more likely than not, or 51 percent likely, that the defendant in the case did indeed commit contempt.
What Happens After a Complaint for Contempt Is Filed?
After a complaint for contempt has been filed with the court, the court will issue a complaint summons. This is a legal order that requests the presence of all parties before the court, during which time the judge will hear the case. The summons must be served to the party allegedly in contempt in advance of the hearing.
What Happens if My Ex Is Found in Contempt?
If your contempt case is successful and your spouse is found in contempt of court, then they may be subject to various penalties. In addition to having to adhere to the original court order (i.e. make back payment for missed child support payments), they may also be liable for your attorney fees and associated costs.
Get the Legal Help You Need Today
If you are interested in learning more about filing a complaint for contempt if your ex is failing to adhere to the terms of your divorce judgment, a skilled Massachusetts divorce attorney can help you to gather evidence and prepare your filing and your case. To learn more, call the Law Office of Heather M. Ward directly today at (617) 903-8955.