Nashville View

Contempt Proceedings

Family Law Attorneys Advocating for Nashville Residents

Not everyone is satisfied with the outcome of a divorce. This means that courts must sometimes get involved after the proceedings are over to make sure that orders are obeyed. Often, to enforce a court order, one former spouse must initiate contempt proceedings to get the other party to comply. These matters often involve child custody or visitation, the payment of alimony or child support, and the division of assets. The Nashville divorce lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC assist Tennessee residents in contempt proceedings against a non-complying party. Our attorneys understand the stress and emotion involved in divorce proceedings, both of which are compounded when one party refuses to adhere to a court’s ruling. Our firm strives to make sure that the legal process is handled efficiently to alleviate our clients’ burdens during trying times. MHPS, PLLC offers dedicated and seasoned representation for contempt proceedings, as well as any other family law matter, for clients throughout Davidson and Williamson Counties. Contact our office today to find out more about our services and how we can help.

Contempt Proceedings in Tennessee

A contempt of court proceeding is the most common way to enforce a family court order in Tennessee that is being violated by a party subject to the order. A petition for contempt may be brought at any time during divorce proceedings after a court has issued an order, judgment, or decree. In order to obtain a contempt order, a party must notify the court of a violation by filing a petition for contempt. This petition contains information regarding what the court order stated and how the offending party willfully violated the order. For instance, one parent’s failure to pay child support is often a circumstance that leads to the initiation of contempt proceedings. A petition for contempt requests that the court take action to force the violating party to adhere to the order or face additional sanctions, such as jail time. However, certain conditions must be met for a court to determine that a party has violated an order in a way that rises to the level of contempt. The court must find that the party had the ability to comply with the order, but they deliberately and without valid cause failed to do so. (For instance, if a parent simply lacked the money to pay the full child support amount, but they paid as much as they could under the circumstances, they probably would not be found in contempt.)

There are two different kinds of contempt, civil or criminal, and either can be a result of a direct order or an indirect order. A direct order is issued when the violating party exhibits disruptive behavior in court, disrupting proceedings, while an indirect order is issued when the violation occurs outside a courtroom, such as when a party fails to produce documents despite an order to do so.

Civil contempt occurs when a party disobeys a court order. Once a party complies with an order, a contempt charge can be dismissed. Depending on the severity of a violation, however, a party may also be sanctioned with a fine, jail time, or a combination of both.

Criminal contempt refers to conduct that is designed to hinder or obstruct justice. A party’s willful refusal to pay child or spousal support or failure to produce documents in an attempt to hide assets during a divorce can be evidence of criminal contempt. In contrast to civil contempt, criminal contempt is not purged by an offending party’s action. Criminal contempt is also punishable with jail time or fines.

Retain a Nashville Attorney to Fight for Your Rights

Even when divorce proceedings conclude, there may be future issues that need to be monitored by the court. The attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC offer continued legal support for people who need assistance in making sure that a court’s decree is honored. Our firm represents people in Nashville, Franklin, Cool Springs, East Nashville, Hillsboro Village, and Brentwood, as well as other areas of Davidson and Williamson Counties. If you have questions regarding contempt proceedings, or if you need help with another family law issue, contact our office at 615-800-7096 or online to speak with a lawyer regarding your needs.