Contempt in Indiana Divorce
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Whether you are looking to hold your former partner responsible for the failure to comply with a court order or are in need of contempt defense in Indiana, our firm can help. At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, our experienced and dynamic team of Indianapolis divorce lawyers prides itself on its extensive litigation experience. By helping your voice be heard inside and outside the courtroom, our firm can ensure that you and your needs will be given every consideration they deserve.
Although your divorce should mean that a difficult situation has finally come to an end, unfortunately, that is not always the case. Sometimes there’s a question whether conduct in your divorce defies a court order. When the parties cannot resolve the question themselves, the court may use contempt in Indiana divorce cases to induce a previously non-compliant party to act pursuant to the settlement, divorce decree, or other court order in the divorce case.
The Meaning of Contempt in Indiana Divorce Cases
Divorce can be fraught with strife as you and your former settle differences about matters involving property, child support, child custody, and parenting time. Sometimes a dispute may escalate to the point that one party alleges the other has purposefully defied one or more court orders. To resolve such disputes or encourage future compliance, courts can use their contempt power. Allegations of contempt in Indiana divorce cases are not uncommon. A contempt of court order generally means that one party either did something prohibited by or failed to do something required by a divorce court order.
Examples of Contempt
One example is the failure of a spouse or former spouse to pay child support or spousal support required by a court order. Such non-compliance can cause a terrible financial hardship for the person entitled to the payments.
In another example, a non-compliant spouse’s failure to follow a parenting time order by not adhering to the scheduled times or not returning the child at all can be extremely distressing. Alternatively, sometimes one party may use contempt proceedings to harass the other. In any of these cases, the Indianapolis divorce attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP will help you protect your interests.
Types of Contempt in Indiana Divorce Cases
Courts generally see the following types of contempt in Indiana divorce cases: direct contempt and indirect contempt. Direct contempt occurs in the presence of the court or judge and is generally conduct that is disrespectful to the court or judge. For instance, a party who yells at the judge during a hearing or is otherwise disruptive or disrespectful in court may be found to be in direct contempt. In contrast, indirect contempt occurs when a person violates a court order outside the presence of the court or judge.
What Subjects a Person to Contempt in Indiana Divorce?
Indirect contempt proceedings are commonly used to enforce family law orders when one party is non-compliant with a court order either during the dissolution proceedings or after the divorce is final. Any order issued in a divorce case could be the basis for a contempt finding for non-compliance, but contempt proceedings arise most often with regard to these types of orders:
- Child support
- Parenting time
- Spousal support
Other examples of behavior that could constitute non-compliance with a court order include these:
- Violating the parenting time schedule repeatedly
- Failing to pick the child up for parenting time or to return the child to the other parent at the end of the scheduled parenting time
- Trying to alienate the child against the other parent
- Refusing to allow the other parent to see the child pursuant to the parenting time order
- Failing to inform the other parent of the whereabouts of the child
- Allowing an unauthorized person to take care of the child
A party can also use contempt proceedings to induce compliance with orders on court-ordered, non-child-related matters such as these:
- Failing to execute documents
- Failing to produce requested documents or information
- Failing to produce property or access to premises, especially before the divorce is final
Disputes over this type of conduct can also cause a great deal of stress and create serious financial hardship.
A single, minor occurrence of conduct contrary to a court order is usually an insufficient basis for contempt proceedings. Generally, the conduct must be a major grievance or a repeated offense, and it must be in willful or intentional defiance of a court order. In other words, an instance of returning a child a few minutes late at the end of parenting time usually would not qualify as a violation of the parenting time order; however, habitually failing to return a child on time very well may.
If you are dealing with a non-compliant former partner or have been accused of non-compliance before or after your divorce is final on these or other court-ordered matters, you need the help of the talented Indiana contempt attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP.
Contempt to Enforce Parenting Time
Your right to rely on the parenting time schedule ordered by the divorce court is sacrosanct. The law provides a specific enforcement mechanism for protecting the parenting time of a non-custodial parent. When the custodial parent denies the non-custodial parent time with the child as set out in the parenting time order, Indiana Code § 31-17-4-4 allows the non-custodial parent to seek an injunction requiring the custodial parent to allow the ordered parenting time. The non-custodial parent may then seek a temporary restraining order under Indiana Code § 31-17-4-5. Under Indiana Code § 31-17-4-8, if the custodial parent unjustifiably violates such an injunction or restraining order, the court may issue an order:
- Holding the custodial parent in contempt
- Ordering makeup time for the parenting time missed due to violation of the prior order
- Ordering the custodial parent to pay the non-custodial parent’s attorney’s fees incurred for the parenting time dispute
- Ordering the custodial parent to do community service
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Initiating Contempt Proceedings in Indiana Divorce
Contempt proceedings begin when the complaining party files a motion for rule to show cause with the court and serves a copy of it on the other party. The court will then issue an order to show cause, setting the matter for a show cause hearing. Under Indiana Code § 34-47-3-5, the show cause order must include the following information:
- The facts that are alleged to constitute contempt
- The time and place the alleged contempt conduct occurred
- The time and location of the show cause hearing
The complaining party has the burden of proving that the other party’s conduct constituted contempt of court by demonstrating the following:
- The relevant court order the other party disobeyed
- That the other party knew about the court order and the reason for it
- That the other party violated the court order
- That the other party received reasonable notice of the contempt hearing
At the show cause hearing, the party accused of being non-compliant with a court order has an opportunity to explain how the stated conduct either did not occur or does not constitute actionable contempt. In other words, the non-compliant party has to show cause for not complying with the court order.
After hearing evidence from both parties, the court will determine whether there is a basis for finding the responding party in contempt of court. At that point, the main purpose of the show cause hearing is to induce the non-compliant spouse to comply with the court order.
If you believe your spouse’s or former spouse’s violation of a court order rises to the level of actionable contempt, or if your former partner has accused you of the same, seek the help of the experienced Indianapolis divorce attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP to assist you throughout the contempt proceedings.
The Consequences of Contempt of Court in Indiana Divorces
The court has the discretion to determine the consequences for contempt in Indiana divorce cases. Generally, the penalties for indirect contempt in a divorce case are remedial, putting the complaining party in the position he or she should have been in under the relevant court order, or coercive, imposing punitive measures or further consequences if the contemnor, the person found in contempt, does not comply.
The penalty for contempt in Indiana divorce cases can be quite severe. Depending on the circumstances, the court may initially give the contemnor an opportunity to comply with the court order. Alternatively, or if the contemnor does not become compliant, the court may impose consequences such as these, depending on the circumstances:
- Awarding makeup parenting time, if applicable
- Ordering the contemnor to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees for the contempt proceedings
- Revising the parenting time or custody order
- Ordering the contemnor to a jail term
In the event the court finds the complaining party used contempt proceedings to harass the other party, the court may order the complaining party to pay the other’s attorney’s fees.
Help with Contempt in Indiana Divorce Cases
Dealing with contempt in Indiana divorce cases requires astute understanding of the relevant statutes and keen litigation skills. If you believe that your spouse has willfully or intentionally not complied with an order form the divorce court, or if you have been accused of such conduct, contact the experienced Indiana contempt attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Whether you are seeking to make your former partner comply with a court order or your former partner has alleged you are non-compliant, the Indianapolis divorce attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP will fight for your rights.