Family Law Attorneys

Contempt Charges: Filing to Enforce Divorce Decree Orders

Contempt charges: Filing to enforce divorce decree orders

When a divorce is filed in Massachusetts, a divorce decree typically explains in clear terms the conditions that must be met by each of the newly-divorced partners. These orders may include such items as property division, child support payments or almimony payments. When one spouse does not follow the terms of these court-ordered conditions, it may be possible to file suit to hold them in contempt.

What is a contempt charge?

When one party violates financial orders contained in their divorce decree, they may be held in civil contempt. While there are also criminal contempt charges, they would not apply in a divorce case. There are some specific instances where a partner may consider filing contempt charges:

  • Support issues - the court orders payment of child or spousal support not later than the first day of the month and as of the fifteenth day of the month the support remains unpaid
  • Retirement account division - oftentimes one partner is required to turn over part of their retirement account. If the partner refuses to do this, they may be cited for contempt
  • Real estate transactions - while one partner may be living in the home, the divorce decree may indicate the property is to be sold or the other partner's name is to be removed from a current mortgage. When this is not done, there may be a reason for filing a contempt suit

When contempt charges may not stick

Spouses who were not notified of modifications in their divorce decree or spouses who have had a financial issue that prohibited them from following through on the terms of a financial obligation laid out in their divorce decree may not be found in contempt by a court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In addition, violations of restraining orders are typically not reasons to file contempt charges as these charges may not be able to easily prove. If your ex-partner has failed to live up to their responsiblities under your Massachusetts divorce decree, it may be time to contact the Law Office of Robert W. Kovacs, Jr., a family law attorney. We can help you determine if the threat of a contempt charge will force your ex-spouse to live up to the financial terms of your divorce decree.