Contempt of Court for Non-Payment of Child Support
In this video attorney Megan Wilson explains the contempt of court process for non payments of child support. View the video below or see the transcript to hear Megan’s explanation for this confusing topic.
Hey Everybody it’s attorney Megan Wilson at Douglass & Runger, PLLC and today we will talk about contempt of court for child support. So contempt of court, what type of contempt of court is civil contempt and when someone doesn’t pay their child support. They may be held in civil contempt of court that can be filed by the person who receives child support, or if it’s a state case in juvenile court, the state can and very often does file contempt actions for child support. Now civil contempt means that as we say, the person who’s being held in contempt has the keys to the jail in their pocket. So you can go to jail for contempt of court. But you can purge yourself of that contempt and be released from custody, by making a purge payment to purge yourself the contempt. Oftentimes especially in juvenile court, what the judges are deciding on the contempt docket is how much someone should have to pay to purge themselves to the contempt. Now it’s not all of the child support, usually it’s at least a couple of months of payments. And that will either prevent them from going to jail that day, or if they can’t pay the purge about that day, they will go into custody and a bond will be set, and the amount of the purge payment. Once they make that bond that bond goes towards child support and they’re released from custody and they’re no longer in contempt of court. The same thing happens in circuit Chancery court when someone doesn’t pay their child support that was court ordered in divorce, and the court can look at whether or not it was willful whether or not the person had the means to pay the support and chose not to so they have to have been able to pay, and and and then they can decide on a punishment, and the punishment is typically incarceration or a purge payment. So once again, the court looks at all the numbers, looks at the amount owed the amount the person earns and determines how much is to be paid to purge them of the contempt of court. Once that purge payment is paid if it’s paid before someone’s taken into custody then you don’t go to jail at all. If it’s paid after it’s done the same way where it says a bond. And then once that bond is paid that goes to child support, and the person is released from custody. There may different types of contempt and for different things but this is just civil contempt for child support, and the most questions I get about this are in juvenile court because the state files a lot of petitions for contempt based on child support. And if the state is involved in the state being the child support office on Mendenhall. If the state is involved, they don’t have to have the permission, or really even the cooperation of the person who receives child support, in order to fall back contempt. Because the state has an interest in your child support case. So, if you were to get a summons for contempt, it might not even be from the person you have child support to, it might have been filed by the state, on behalf of the State and the state does not represent the child support recipient the state represents the state. So they can follow that and then the person who receives child support will get notice of it, and will get notice of a hearing date, and they may or may not show up to court, you’re supposed to show up to court when you get that notice some people don’t. The recipient not showing up will not prevent the state from being able to go forward on that contempt. They can still seek to collect that money and seem to hold you in contempt, because they’re a party to your child support case. So just because the recipient didn’t show up, doesn’t mean that the case is dismissed, and the state will dismiss charges for contempt cases for different reasons. Once the court comes, one of those reasons may be that they recently received a pretty significant payment or that it was filed you know six months ago when no payments were being made and now payments are being made. So if you can kind of get yourself back on track, or make a significant payment before court comes the state might dismiss it when you get there. And so once you arrive you would be advised that the state’s dismissed it and it’s dropped. So there’s no chance of you going to jail that day, which is a good thing for you. If you’re the payor, I want to talk about these state cases in the state being involved in the state being a party in Shelby County, the only place that happens is juvenile court, if the state’s involved, child support is transferred to juvenile court. So the state only goes to juvenile court. So in circuit or Chancery court, the state can’t file a petition to enforce child support because the state isn’t a party, if they were, it would be in juvenile court.
You can in juvenile court or circuit or Chancery, if you are receiving child support or supposed to receive child support, you’re not, you can hire a private attorney to file your own contempt action to seek that the pay or be held in contempt for not paying. And then, you know what I just said about the state being able to dismiss it if a significant payment is made and things like that don’t apply because it’s up to you whether or not you want to dismiss your petition. If you receive a large payment right before court you might decide to dismiss it or you might get that payment and decide no I want to go forward I’m owed this money and there’s no consistent payments. So then obviously a claim would be less, and what we call the purge payment and probably less if they’ve paid some, but you’re in the driver’s seat as opposed to the state, you can do the same thing and you don’t even have state. The state is a party. If you are the recipient you’re not receiving it you can file it you give notice to the state as well. But then it’s up to you to drop it not the state because you’re the one who found it. If you choose to drop it, or you may choose to go forward on it. No matter whether you received a large payment or not. And you can ask the court for whatever relief you think is appropriate, you can ask for a certain amount, and the court will decide if that certain amount is reasonable or not you can ask for your attorneys fees. And that’s very common I very often on contempt cases in juvenile court and rewarded by attorneys fees from the opposing party. Now of course I’ve already been paid by my client to take on the case. I’ve already work on the case, but any attorneys fees are received if the client does not have an outstanding balance is refunded to them so they get their money back. So if you hire an attorney for contempt in juvenile court or contempt in another court, you are likely to get your attorneys fees paid because the statute provides for that. However, there’s a problem collecting child support because the payor doesn’t work a regular job and get a W two. And it’s hard to collect it and it’s also going to be hard to collect those attorneys fees, so keep that in mind that that’s it’s not a guarantee it happens often, but it may also be difficult to collect. So that’s just kind of a very basic summary of contempt in Shelby County for child support and how it works. It’s confusing. There are multiple courts and most often the contempt are in juvenile court, those are the big dockets where you know several times a week there are more than 50 people on the docket. So that’s, that’s a very basic summary of childcare contempt in Shelby County your case may and probably will be different and anything I said is subject to exceptions, based on a case by case basis, but I hope that hope that helps you get a little bit of an understanding of child support content.
If you have any further questions do not hesitate to call Megan or her team at Douglass & Runger, PLLC at (901) 388-5805 relating to other questions you may have about family.
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