Can you be held in contempt of court for not paying child support orders in Orange County? The quick answer is yes but there may be good reasons for not living up to your obligation. But first let’s define the term, “contempt of court”. In our example contempt of court is a deliberate failure to follow the court’s order. In family law the two most contempt actions brought before the judge are for failing to pay one’s child and/or spousal support.
If you are reading this article, chances are good that you have been served with documents that are instructing you to appear in court. You will need to explain to the judge why support is not being made. Ignoring the request to appear in court is not recommended. You must appear other wise a warrant for your arrest will be issued. However, I strongly recommend you first consult with a lawyer that is experienced in dealing with contempt of court cases. Please note that if your explanation to the judges is not convincing the judge can still place you in jail.
If you do not wish to consult with an attorney here are some pointers on how you can evade jail. First you must prepare your evidence. You will have to explain to the judge that you did not purposely defy the court’s orders to pay your child support. The judge will need to know why you did not pay. If you were out of work, you must state so. If you were laid off, please bring proof from your ex-employer. You must convince the judge that you have and will continue to make every effort to make it right and begin to pay something. Further bring proof that you are active in searching for employment. Keep a record of where, when and whom you have interviewed with. Sometimes the judge wants to know what you can pay “NOW”. Therefore, if you can pay something that day, it will help persuade the judge that you intend to comply.
Again, these contempt actions should not be ignored for they can include jail time and fines. As an assistant public defender or private attorney for contempt cases I find myself in court every Friday making a case for my client’s as to why they should not be fined or sent to jail. It is not often were I feel that someone that has violated a court order should be sent to jail.
I see it this way, if the court sends someone to jail, that is lost time. Time that can be better spent looking for a job or finding ways to make the support payments. Most of the clients I defend have had a stroke of bad luck due to the economy; therefore, fell behind in their obligations.
Before I present the case to the court I have a heart to heart talk with my clients in order to find out the reasons for their failure to pay support. If the clients and I can agree on a feasible plan, I will make the argument to the court. The court will then need to decide if my proposal is viable. Judges believe in giving second chances to make it right. No judge likes to incarcerate anyone if they can see that an attempt is being made to follow the court orders.
Please note that in the contempt hearing the judge will not give you a pass if your argument is that your ex-spouse is preventing you from seeing your child.
Now if you have a valid reason for not working, due to an injury or illness you must explain why you did not modify your support obligations. Again, you must gather your evidence. Medical records, doctor’s letters…etc. If you did make an attempt to modify the orders but were unable to retain counsel due to the cost, bring in dates, attorney names and cost to show you made an attempt. Perhaps you also made an attempt to obtain public legal assistance but did not qualify, bring that proof with you.
Please note that a judge cannot waive child support, it is your obligation and you must find a way to meet your responsibilities. Therefore, the court is going to want to know how you plan on paying.
If you need help with your contempt action for failing to pay child support, please call me for a free consultation.