Ensuring Compliance with the Court’s Orders

Once the Court issues an order, whether from approving your settlement agreement or after a contested hearing, both you and the other party are required to comply with the court order.  So, what happens if the other party refuses to follow the order?  Failure to comply with the court order can result in an action for contempt of court.  There are two types of civil contempt:  direct contempt and indirect contempt.  Direct contempt occurs when the actions are conducted in or near the court, and the judge has personal knowledge of the action.  Hopping v. State, 1994, 637 N.E.2d 1294, certiorari denied 115 S.Ct. 578, 513 U.S. 1017, 130 L.Ed.2d 493.

What Does Indiana Law Say?

Indiana Code § 34-47-3-1 states: “A person who is guilty of any willful disobedience of any process, or any order lawfully issued: (1) by any court of record, or by the proper officer of the court; (2) under the authority of law, or the direction of the court; and (3) after the process or order has been served upon the person; is guilty of an indirect contempt of the court that issued the process or order.”  In most family law matters, you will be dealing with indirect contempt of court. In an indirect contempt of court action, you are notifying the Court that one party has failed to comply with the Court’s Orders and you are asking the Court to ensure future compliance.

For example, if you have a specific parenting time schedule, and the other party refuses to allow you to have parenting time on the days the Court ordered, you can file a motion with the court to have the other party found in indirect contempt of court.  The key factor to remember, is that the person must have willfully disobeyed the Court’s Order.  A mistake of fact does not always translate into willful disobedience, especially when the parties have been agreeing to a schedule outside of the Court’s Order.  When it comes to parenting time, the parties are always encouraged to work out their schedule as they agree and in the best interests of their children. So always following the parenting time schedule may not work.  However, when a parent consistently denies the other parent time, a pattern may show willful disobedience.  When it comes to child support, you should always be careful not to make agreements outside of the Court’s order.

Direct payments may be seen as a gift, and informal agreements to modify child support may not be enforced if the agreement was not adopted by the Court. If you were ordered to pay child support, even if you and the other party agree otherwise, the other party could come back and file a contempt citation against you.  Keeping in mind that each case is fact sensitive, when there is a conflict and the other party refuses to comply with the court’s order, you may have to once again seek the intervention of the court.

Being Held in Contempt

Before a party can be held in contempt, you have to file an action with the court.  The party must be given notice of the alleged contempt and the rule of the court they are violating, otherwise known as a Motion for Rule to Show Cause.  The Motion requests that the party appear and answer why they should not be held in contempt of court.  The Court then issues a Rule to Show Cause setting the time of the hearing and ordering the party to appear and answer the allegations.  If the opposing party is found in contempt of court, the Court has the ability to enter sanctions.  This could be a slap on the wrist, a fine, an order for attorney’s fees, make-up parenting time, and imprisonment, or any combination thereof.  It is important to remember that the purpose of a finding of contempt of court is to ensure future compliance with the Court’s Orders, and the court can determine what level of sanction is necessary to make the parties comply.  This post in intended to provide general information on the contempt process, and is not a substitution for legal advice.

The attorneys at Banks & Brower are here to guide you through your legal issues 24 hours a day, and we represent clients throughout the state.  Call us at 317-870-0019.