Contempt of Court Laws in Massachusetts

For an individual to be held in contempt of a court’s order, there first must be an enforceable order in place. In divorce and parenting matters, the court may issue any number of orders during the pendency of the case. Some common types of orders frequently handed down by the court include the following:

  • Temporary orders regarding custody, parenting issues, the payment of child support and/or alimony, who gets to live in the marital home during the divorce, etc. The court issues temporary orders early on in the divorce process; and they remain in effect unless and until the court rules otherwise.
  • Final orders regarding all outstanding issues. In addition to resolving the matters listed above on a final basis, final orders may also deal with the division of the marital property, including assets and liabilities.

Once the court issues any order, even if one or both parties do not like it, it is enforceable.

A finding of contempt

When a party to a contract does not comply with even one provision of the agreement’s terms and condition, he or she is in breach of the contract and may be sued. Similarly, with respect to a court order, if one party does not live up to his or her end of the deal, and violates one or more provisions, it is considered contempt.

In order to prove that someone is in contempt of a court order, the aggrieved party must present evidence of the violation. Proof of contempt generally requires more than just an allegation by the moving party. For example, a court may issue an order directing that a father pay child support to the mother on the first day of every month via electronic, direct deposit to a specific bank account. In addition to the mother alleging the father’s contempt, she must present evidence to support her claims. She may do this by providing the court with copies of account statements showing that the father did not make electronic, direct deposits to the account as ordered. Assuming the father presents insufficient or no evidence to the contrary, the court likely will find the father in contempt.

Consequences of contempt

Once the court finds a party in contempt, it may order that party to do a number of things such as:

  • Take immediate action to fix the problem. In the above example, the court likely would order the father to pay all past-due child support
  • Pay the other party’s legal fees. Sometimes it is very clear that one party is in contempt and that the other party was left with no choice but to seek the court’s help and intervention. In these cases, the court may order the party in contempt to pay the aggrieved party’s legal fees.
  • Issue an arrest warrant. In some cases, such as when one party violates a restraining order, the penalty for doing so may include jail time.

If your spouse or ex-spouse fails to comply with any court order issued on a temporary or final basis during your divorce, contact Attorney Rosanne Klovee today to discuss your options. If you have been served with a complaint for contempt, contact Attorney Klovee as soon as possible. Attorney Klovee routinely and successfully defends unfounded claims of contempt against her clients.

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