Massachusetts Contempt: What is it? How do I address it? What are the remedies?

Contempt-316x248I hear people use the word “contempt” all of the time, but there is a lot of confusion about contempt and what to do about contempt. Here’s more information about this issue.

What is it?  When the Court issues an order, the parties must comply with its terms.  A court order details what each party is responsible for – child support, payments of debt, etc.  If a party fails to comply with the terms of an Order, that is known as a contempt of Court. Contempt is a known failure to comply with the Order as opposed to a mistake or confusion about the Order.

How do I address it? The method you use to address the contempt with the Court truly depends on where you are in the process. When one party does not comply with the terms of a Court Order, and there is no ongoing, open complaint with the Court, the opposing party can file a Complaint for Contempt. This opens and advances the matter for the Court to address the issue. If there is already an ongoing, open complaint (a pending issue before the Court), you may be able to file a motion with the Court.

What are the remedies? If you are able to show that the other party is in contempt, you can ask the Court to force the other party to comply with the Order. You can also motion the Court and ask for his/her attorney’s fees and costs to be paid by the party in contempt. After all, these costs would not have been incurred had the party not been in contempt. Costs can be anything from filing fees and sheriff/constable fees to interest and expenses. If the party’s contempt has made the initial order impossible, the party can ask for the Court to change the order. It is important to seek the appropriate remedy for the contempt.

If you are faced with a situation of contempt and don’t know what to do, please call us. We will advise you whether failure to comply with an Order in your case is contempt and if so, we will guide you through the process to enforce the Court’s order.

If you have already been found in contempt of court, you will need an attorney.  It’s very important that your attorney understand the situation as well as the rules of that court.  This is where experience really counts.  Call us and let us help you make the right legal decisions.