- Sometimes, people don’t respect the legality of Court Orders in family law cases. This can rage from dangerous situations like violating an Order for Protection or Restraining Order, to more relaxed situations like being 30 minutes late to a parenting time exchange. So, what can you do to make sure the Order is being enforced?
Specific Legal Language
One of the most important parts of ensuring enforcement is making sure your attorney drafts specific language into the proposed order. For example, instead of language such as “drop off will be after school on Mondays”, you should say, “Dad will drop off at Mom’s house at 4:30pm directly after school on Mondays”. Another important detail if you anticipate having issues with following the order is asking your attorney to draft in specific language regarding having local law enforcement assist if the order isn’t being followed. Most police officers are aware of family court pleadings and will help you enforce a custody or parenting time order without much pushback if there is a provision in the order asking for their help.
Another option is to have your attorney file a motion for parenting time assistance. The state provides for parties to ask for make up or compensatory parenting time when one parent has wrongfully denied parenting time without providing an opportunity for making it up. If you need further help resolving parenting time issues, you can ask the court to appoint a parenting time expeditor, who will help you reach an agreement or decide how to settle the problem. If you want to pursue this option, make sure you keep track of missed time with as much detail as possible.
Minnesota Statute § 588.01
Minnesota Statute § 588.01 provides perhaps the most extreme remedy for failure to comply with a court order: contempt. Contempt is a legal concept that most people are familiar with, however it is usually thought of in the court room setting. Contempt can also occur when a party disobeys any lawful judgment, order, or process of court. The punishment for contempt can range from a fine to actual imprisonment, or both. For disobeying a child support order, specifically, the court provides the following remedy: “the court may require the payment of the costs and a reasonable attorney’s fee, incurred in the prosecution of the contempt, to be paid by the guilty party. When it is a constructive contempt, it must appear that the right or remedy of a party to an action or special proceeding was defeated or prejudiced by it before the contempt can be punished by imprisonment or by a fine exceeding $50.”
To start a contempt case, the Court must sign an “Order to Show Cause”, which is followed by a contempt proceeding. However, judges are hesitant to hold a party in contempt, except for the most extreme cases. For example, a judge might not hold a party in contempt who has past child support arrearages when the final judgment and decree was recently entered. Instead, they might sign the contempt order for two years and over $50,000 in arrearages. There are various factors that could affect your contempt case and you should consult with your attorney regarding whether a contempt motion is the best option for your situation.