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When Should You File a Civil Contempt Motion?

contempt of court

When divorce is filed in Florida, each ex-spouse must follow specific terms and conditions. However, when one party fails to comply with the requirements in the divorce ruling, you may need to take them to court to have them comply by filing a civil contempt motion. Here’s what you need to know about contempt motion and how to file one. 

What is a civil contempt motion? 

In law, a person is found to be in contempt when he or she obstructs the administration of justice. Contempt motions are filed in family courts when a parent or ex-spouse refuses to obey a court order, usually stated in the final divorce decree or a separate court order. If a contempt motion is granted, the other party will be required to comply immediately. 

When should you file a contempt motion? 

Before filing a contempt motion, you should attempt to get the other party to comply. The other party should have adequate notice of the order and demonstrate that they are willfully not complying with it. You should also give the offending party a written notice to comply with the order. If the offender is not complying with expense-related orders, keep documentation to show the court how much is owed.

Common reasons to file contempt motions 

Here are some common situations where contempt motions are filed: 


A contempt motion may be filed when a parent fails to follow custodial agreements, such as not letting a parent see a child at the destinated time and location. This also applies when a parent fails to comply with pick-up or drop-off times. 

Child support

One of the primary issues for filing a contempt motion is for one parent refusing to pay mandated child support. If a parent does not pay child support or the agreed amount, a contempt motion can be filed to require the parent to pay what was previously owed and make future payments.  

Spousal support 

Similar to child support, if an ex-spouse refuses to pay spousal support payments (also called alimony), a contempt motion can be filed. 

Process for filing a contempt motion 

First, you must fill out a Motion for Civil Contempt and file it with the family court. You are also required to notify the non-complying party. In the motion, you will be required to state the cause of the non-compliance and submit evidence of willful non-compliance. Once the offending party is notified, a hearing will be set where a judge will determine whether the offending party is purposely refusing to follow the court order. The offending party may present evidence of why they cannot comply with the court order, such as the inability to pay or meet the specified timeframes. 

Consequences for being found in contempt 

If a judge rules that the offending party is in contempt, they will be immediately required to comply. The offending party may need to pay back child or spousal support and the filing party’s attorney and court fees on the same day as the hearing. If the judge rules that there is a willful refusal to comply with the relevant order, the offender could face time in jail until he complies. If the matter involves failure to pay support, the court could order incarceration until the party pays a specified amount to purge the contempt.  If the offender fails to pay child support, other recovery attempts such as garnishing wages, issuing a lien, and suspending a driver’s license may also be enacted to force compliance.

Resolve your family law issues with Peppler Law 

Experienced attorney Thomas R. Peppler can help with a variety of family law issues, whether you need to file a contempt motion or have had one filed against you. Call our Central Florida office at 407-316-2045 for an initial consultation to discuss the facts of your case. 

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