Enforcing Support  - Contempt of Court Motions

One method of collecting child support arrears is through support contempt proceedings. The article below discusses the rules for using this method of enforcement and how to file a motion for contempt to begin collecting back child support.

Using the Motion for Contempt to Collect Child Support

By Howard Iken

In family law cases, if there are children there is child support. And most states now require an order for support anytime the court considers children's issues. But unfortunately, getting an order for child support and collecting child support are two separate jobs. A common procedure for enforcing child support is the Motion for Contempt.

A brief description of the Motion for Contempt:

Your old case is reopened and a Motion for Contempt is filed. The Motion is a request to the court to force someone to comply with the terms of a previous court order - such as the payment of child support. A hearing must follow the filing of the Motion, usually thirty minutes in length.

The basic rules for a Motion for Contempt are:

  1. There must be a court order and that court order must be clear and understandable;

  2. The opposing party is not complying with the court order; 

  3. You previously made some sort of gesture to encourage compliance (such as a simple letter); 

  4. The opposing party must have the capability to comply with the court order and is purposefully refusing to comply.

Many states have available self-help forms that are valid for family law cases. Among those forms you may be able to find a generic "Motion for …" that you can turn into a Motion for Contempt. In that Motion, you must say facts that lay out conditions one through five, the requirements for a Contempt Order.

An example:

  1. An order was entered on January 1st, 20__ for child support in the amount of $999 monthly. That order is attached.
  2. The Respondent is in arrears in the amount of $9999 as of the date of this Motion.
  3. A good faith letter requesting payment was mailed to the Respondent on March 1st, 20__. 
  4. The Respondent has not replied to that letter.
  5. The Respondent is earning $999/week and has the present ability to comply with the order.

After the Motion is filed, you must call the judge (or follow your local procedure) to schedule a hearing. You must also mail everyone, including the court, a Notice of the date of the hearing.

Things the judge can do:

  • Order the immediate payment of the money. 

  • Send the non-complying party to jail, contingent on payment of a specified sum. 

  • Order liquidation or sale of assets in sufficient amount to comply with the order. You must identify existing assets and give proof to the judge. 

  • Suspend driver licenses or other professional licenses. 

  • Issue an Income Deduction Order. Another common name for this is a garnishment order. This order allows directly debit from the Respondent's payroll check. 

  • Redirect child support to be paid through a state agency, sometimes called state disbursement units.

Every state is slightly different so you should do more research before taking these steps. Also, many states have a child support enforcement agency that will help you enforce support. The pros and cons of these services is a topic for another day. Other options include private attorneys, and paralegal services. The main thing is to do your research, make your plan, and then move forward with your case. 

Copyright: The Divorce Center PA. Provided by . Information provided by Howard Iken, Orlando Divorce Attorney (800-469-3486).

The above article is a good overview on how to file a Support Contempt motion. The following articles offer more information on child support and how to collect child support... 

  1. Divorce
  2. Child Support Articles
  3. Child Support Contempt Motions