Contempt Issues in North Carolina

When do contempt issues arise in the area of ‘modifications’ under North Carolina Family Law?

After finalization of divorce, the two partners have to reach an agreement on areas like child support, child custody and spousal support. When divorced couples cannot reach a decision through a legal agreement, a judge will make the decision and enter a court order on these issues. The court can use its contempt of court powers to enforce a court order. Either spouse not adhering to the terms of the court order can face contempt of court.

Common Contempt Issues

Failure to pay child support is the most common reason for filing contempt motions. The other reasons include failure to pay alimony, or not adhering to court ordered visitation or custody schedule.

Who Files the Contempt Motion and Who Responds?

If your ex-spouse or your child’s parent is not following a court order, you can file a contempt motion. Your ex-spouse or child’s parent will need to reply to the motion and show the judge why they should not be held in contempt of court.

Contempt Issues and Modifications

It is possible to avoid facing contempt of court action by petitioning the court for modification of the order due to substantial and material change in circumstances. For instance, if the partner paying child support has lost his job he/she must apply for downward modification of child support. Now, the ex-spouse cannot bring in a contempt action. However, please note that filing a motion for downward modification (as in this example) does not release the payor from payment obligations. These continue to accumulate till the modification is entered by the court.

Why Contempt Motion should be filed

When a contempt motion is filed, the judge can enforce the terms of the court order. For instance, in the case of willful non-payment of child support, the court can order payment of back arrears as a lump sum at once or even order wage garnishment from the parent’s salary. It’s important to remember that in order for the court to hold a person in contempt the judge must find the person willfully disobeyed the court’s order.

We can help you file the contempt motion in the right manner highlighting the reasons why the court should grant your motion. In case your ex-spouse has issued a contempt of court show cause notice, we can help you respond to the notice in front of the judge in the best possible manner.