After the court issues its final judgment or decree in a divorce or other family law matter, the parties receive a document detailing the terms of the court’s directives and orders. So, how does a piece of paper make someone pay child support or give their spouse title to a house or car? What’s to stop someone from simply refusing to follow the terms of a divorce or family law order? There are a few methods to motivate someone to comply with their family law obligations, including contempt, attachment, and garnishment.
If a party fails to comply with orders issued by the family law court, the other party can request the court to exercise its contempt power to compel the other party to comply. Florida courts may hold someone in contempt of court if they refuse or otherwise fail to comply with a valid court order. Contempt allows the court to impose fines or imprison the noncomplying party, known as the “contemnor.” Florida law grants courts this power as a method of preserving and vindicating the court’s authority.
Contempt can be divided into two distinct categories: civil contempt and criminal contempt. Civil contempt proceedings aim to coerce the contemnor to comply with their legal obligations by piling monetary fines or imprisoning them until they agree to comply. In a sense, the contemnor has full autonomy as to when the fines or imprisonment will end. As a result, the noncomplying party is said to hold the keys to their own jail cell.
For example, a court can hold a party who hasn’t paid child support in over three months in contempt of court and imprison them, conditioning their imprisonment on paying part or some of their child support arrearages at the end of the week. The court frees the contemnor upon agreement with the court’s terms. If the contemnor fails yet again, the court can again hold them in civil and even criminal contempt of court.
Criminal contempt proceedings are designed to punish past offenses. The contemnor cannot avoid or terminate punishment for criminal contempt. Criminal contempt is further divided into sub-categories: direct and indirect criminal contempt. Direct criminal contempt occurs when the judge directly witnesses the party committing the offense to be punished. Indirect criminal contempt occurs when the offending act for triggering contempt occurs outside the court.
Garnishing Wages and Sequestering Property
Under Florida law, a party may seize the earnings of another person as a method of enforcing family law orders. Per Florida Statutes § 61.12, the court may attach or garnish the noncomplying party’s earnings “to enforce and satisfy the orders and judgments of the court.” A party can file a writ of garnishment for seizing the other party’s income. This can be used to enforce orders for attorney’s fees, and family support orders. A party can also file a writ of sequestration to seize the other person’s property. After taking the other party’s property, it may be sold to satisfy the obligations the other party failed to pay.
Seeking Quality Legal Advice? Call the Law Office of Russell S. Hershkowitz, LLC
Do you need legal advice about a family law matter involving the enforcement of court orders or the terms of a divorce decree? If so, you should consult the Law Office of Russell S. Hershkowitz, LLC. Our legal team, led by Attorney Hershkowitz, has decades of experience litigating various family law issues, such as the enforcement of family law orders.
Call us at (407) 753-4111 or contact us online today for a consultation.