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About Contempt of Court and Enforcing Court Orders (Issue Guide)

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab
Contents
Information Information Contempt and Enforcement

Information

Since this kind of issue can be complicated, it is in your best interest to talk to a lawyer to have the best chance of getting what is owed to you.

 

Articles in this Guide: 


 

What is contempt?

Contempt of court is "any act or omission tending to obstruct or interfere with the orderly administration of justice, or to impair the dignity of the court or respect for its authority."  There are two kinds of contempt: direct and constructive.  Usually, when we think of "contempt," we are thinking of constructive contempt. 


 

Defining Constructive Contempt

Constructive contempt is any contempt of court other than a direct one.  Constructive contempt includes, among other acts and omissions: 

  • "Wilful disobedience of any lawful judgment, order, mandate, writ, or process of the court"; and
  • "Deceit or abuse of the process or procedure of the court by a party to an action or proceeding.

When a person purposefully or willfully disobeys a court order or judgment, or deceives the Court, they have committed contempt.  


 

Proving Constructive Contempt

The person asking the Court to hold another person in contempt has to prove that: 

  1. the person violated or disobeyed a court order or judgment; and
  2. the person did so willfullly.

This means you must prove the person knew their action was inconsistent with the court order and continued with the action anyway.  Some ways to prove a person's mental state include using their words or actions to demonstrate they knew their action violated the court order. 

 

A finding that a person acted in contempt of court may result in fines or imprisonment.

 

Contempt can be a difficult legal issue, as it requires not only inaction by an individual but also proving another person's state of mind. It is in your best interest to talk to a lawyer if you think there is contempt in your case.

 

Information

Since this kind of issue can be complicated, it is in your best interest to talk to a lawyer to have the best chance of getting what is owed to you.

 

Articles in this Guide: 


 

Failure to Pay Child Support

When a court order for support has been entered, and a parent fails to timely pay child support, the person to whom support is owed can ask the Court for a finding of contempt. Specifically, for disobeying an order for the payment of child support, the court may impose a fine of not more than five hundred dollars, or imprisonment for not more than three months, or both.

 

Since this kind of issue can be complicated, it is in your best interest to talk to a lawyer to have the best chance of getting what is owed to you.


 

 

Past Due Child Support and Attorney's Fees

When a party fails to pay child support repeatedly over time, the amount of child support owed builds up. In cases where past-due child support is owed, the law allows the person owed child support to ask the Court to order the person who failed to pay child support to pay the attorney's fees incurred to enforce the child support obligation. For this reason, an attorney may be willing to represent a parent who is owed child support.


 

Child Support Enforcement 

In Louisiana, courts use each parents' adjusted gross incomes and a mathematical formula known as the child support guidelines to calculate the monthly child support payments.

Louisiana's Department of Children and Family Services works to enforce the payment of child support through an office called Child Support Enforcement (CSE). CSE provides a host of critical child support enforcement functions that include:

 

  • locate parents who have disappeared

  • establish parentage (paternity) of children born to unmarried couples by having couples sign legal documents or undergo genetic testing

  • establish and modify child and medical support obligations, and

  • enforce child and medical support obligations.

 

CSE can also serve as an intermediary for receiving and distributing payments, which allows for a neutral entity to collect payments from the paying parent and distribute them to receiving parent, thus preventing parents from having to contact each other directly regarding these payments. While CSE does have several enforcement mechanisms available to enforce orders and receive overdue payments, it may be easier for a parent to contact a lawyer directly in cases that are more complicated, as a lawyer may be able to argue before a judge more quickly than CSE can procure a payment.

 

CSE procures payments from parents with overdue child support payments in a variety of ways, which include:

 

  • Implementing income assignment, in which a portion of the delinquent parent's wages will be re-directed to CSE. The employer must be notified in this case, since the employer has to make changes to payroll.

  • Intercepting the paying parent's state and federal tax returns and lottery winnings to apply them to the overdue child support.

  • Suspending the paying parent's driver's license, hunting and fishing licenses, and professional and occupational licenses.

  • Suspending the paying parent's motor vehicle registration.

  • Referring cases to the U.S. Department of State, which will deny a passport to anyone who owes more than $2500 in child support.

  • Initiating contempt proceedings. Here, the paying parent must appear in court and explain to the judge why the parent disobeyed a lawful child support order. Contempt can result in fines and even jail time.

 

To apply for child support enforcement services, visit Child Support Enforcement | Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services.

 

Contempt and Enforcement

Since this kind of issue can be complicated, it is in your best interest to talk to a lawyer to have the best chance of getting what is owed to you.

 

Articles in this Guide: 


 

Disobeying an Order of Custody or Visitation

When a court order for child custody or visitation has been entered, a parent who disobeys the court order can be held in contempt. Specifically, for disobeying an order for the right of custody or visitation, the court may impose a fine of not more than five hundred dollars, or imprisonment for not more than three months, or both.  


Before appearing before a court, it may be helpful to understand the exact terms of the custody order and whether there has been a violation of custody or visitation. Custody usually refers to the right to make decisions about a child's life, regardless of whether the child is living somewhere else. Visitation usually refers to time a parent spends with a child. A court order will usually outline each parent's custody and visitation rights regarding the child.

 

In cases where parents have violated a visitation order, the court may, either additionally or in lieu of imprisonment or fines, impose the following:

  • Require one or both parents to allow additional visitation days to replace those denied the noncustodial parent.

  • Require one or both parents to attend a parent education course.

  • Require one or both parents to attend counseling or mediation.

  • Require the parent violating the order to pay all court costs and reasonable attorney fees of the other party.


 

Action for Failure to Exercise or Allow Court-Ordered Visitation, Custody or Time Rights

For the violation of a custody judgment awarding sole or joint custody, a parent can ask the Court for additional relief.  The Court may impose additional penalties or award the other parent makeup custody time, reasonable expenses, and attorney's fees

 

Penalties

The penalties for failure to exercise custody, visitation, or time rights include:

  1. All costs for counseling for the child, if counseling is required because of the failure to exercise visitation, custody or time rights with the child.
  2. A reasonable sum for any actual expenses incurred by the petitioner because of failure to exercise rights pursuant to a court-ordered visitation, custody or time schedule.
  3. A reasonable sum for a caretaker of the child, based upon the hourly rate for caretakers in the community.
  4. All attorney fees and costs of the proceeding.

The penalties for failure to allow custody, visitation, or time rights include:

  1. A reasonable sum for any actual expenses incurred by the petitioner by the loss of his visitation, custody or time rights.
  2. Additional visitation, custody or time rights with the child equal to the time lost.
  3. All attorney fees and costs of the proceeding.
  4. All costs for counseling for the child, if counseling is required because of the failure to allow visitation, custody, or time rights with the child.

Other Impacts of Contempt of Custody Orders

A pattern of willful and intentional violation court orders, without good cause, may constitute a "material change in circumstances," which may may be grounds to modify an existing custody or visitation order. In the case of contempt for disobeying an order for the payment of child support or spousal support or an order for the right of custody or visitation, an individual may be placed on probation for a period of up to two years.


 

Jurisdiction - Louisiana and Out-of-State Judgments

Louisiana courts can exercise jurisdiction over custody orders entered by Louisiana courts or out-of-state courts. 

 

Louisiana courts have the right to enforce custody orders entered by the same court or other Louisiana courts. In order to determine if a Louisiana court has jurisdiction over a child custody order, there are four proper grounds:

  • (1) Louisiana is or was the child's home state;

  • (2) the child and a parent have a significant connection with Louisiana and there is substantial evidence relating to the child in Louisiana;

  • (3) other courts decline to exercise jurisdiction because Louisiana is the appropriate forum; and

  • (4) no other court will exercise jurisdiction, so Louisiana will do so by default.

 

As long as one of these four grounds applies, a Louisiana court can exercise jurisdiction over enforcement. Police and courts can assist in enforcing a court order if one parent does not follow its guidelines. 


 

Return of Child Kept in Violation of Custody Order

Upon presentation of a certified copy of a custody and visitation rights order rendered by a Louisiana court, together with the sworn affidavit of the custodial parent, the judge may issue a civil warrant directed to law enforcement authorities to return the child to the custodial parent pending further order of the court having jurisdiction over the matter.  A court shall have jurisdiction for the limited purpose of causing the return of a child kept in violation of a custody order by virtue of either the presence of the child or litigation pending before the court.

 

The sworn affidavit of the custodial parent shall include all of the following: 

(1)  A statement that the custody and visitation rights order is true and correct.  

(2)  A summary of the status of any pending custody proceeding.  

(3)  The fact of the removal of or failure to return the child in violation of the custody and visitation rights order.  

(4)  A declaration that the custodial parent desires the child returned.


 

Out-of-State Custody Judgments

Louisiana courts will accept and enforce an initial or modified custody order from another state's court, if that state's court had jurisdiction or the factual circumstances met jurisdictional requirements, as long as the custody order has not been modified. This means a Louisiana court will treat the custody order from another state's court as valid in Louisiana. If you need to ask a Louisiana court to enforce a non-Louisiana custody judgment, you must first register the non-Louisiana custody judgment. 

 

Enforcing Visitation Provisions of an Out-of-State Custody Order in a Louisiana Court

A Louisiana court that does not have jurisdiction to modify a child custody determination may issue a temporary order enforcing:

(1)  A visitation schedule made by a court of another state; or

(2)  The visitation provisions of a child custody determination of another state that does not provide for a specific visitation schedule.

If a Louisiana court makes such an order under, it shall specify in the order a period that it considers adequate to allow the petitioner to obtain an order from a court having jurisdiction.  The order remains in effect until an order is obtained from the other court or the period expires.


 

Last Review and Update: Nov 02, 2020
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