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Enforcement And Contempt Actions

Experienced Westport Attorneys enter enforcement orders on behalf of Fairfield County Clients: Visitation, Custody, Child Support, Alimony

Non-Compliance with Court Orders by a Spouse

Non-Compliance with Court Orders and Court Ordered Divorce Agreements by a ex-spouse is perhaps one of the most frustrating scenarios with which you may have to content during the pendency of your divorce and after your divorce has been accepted by the Court and finalized.

Common Situations:

  • Non-payment or late-payment;
  • Non-compliance to parenting schedules;
  • Failure to disclose documents (e.g. tax returns, bonuses);
  • Failure to pay tuition payments;
  • Un-reimbursed medical expenses,
  • Failure to maintain insurance policies, etc.

Your Alternatives:

  • Motion for Contempt;
  • Motion to Compel;
  • Negotiated or facilitated settlement;

Understanding Contempt:

You and your spouse are duty bound to comply with all court orders including, but not limited to: scheduled visitations, child support payments, alimony payments, tuition payments, medical reimbursements, document and information disclosures (e.g. tax filings and bonus payments). Any person failing to comply with a court order can be charged with contempt. A person found guilty of contempt can be ordered to comply with the court orders, pay fines, face wage garnishment, or even receive jail time.

Choosing the Right Enforcement Strategy

While the option to file a Motion for Contempt or Motion to Compel is available and Needle | Cuda can aggressively pursue these options at any time, it may not always be the best or most efficient way to solve your problem. It is important to consider that some courts can shy away from contempt rulings. Or, that it may be prudent in the bigger picture to avoid the potentially serious penalties for your ex-spouse. Another consideration might be that your spouse has experienced substantial change in financial circumstances that could support a modification to the court order and therefore a reduction in his or her payment obligations to you.

Needle | Cuda has been successful in resolving and settling delinquent alimony payments, unpaid child support, non-compliance with visitation and parenting schedules, and many other divorce related enforcement issues for clients throughout Fairfield County, including, Greenwich, Westport, New Canaan, Wilton, Darien, and Fairfield. Our attorneys will work closely with you to determine an enforcement strategy that best fits your situation whether it be through a finessed negotiation or litigated contempt action.

 

Ex Parte Restraining Order FAQs

An emergency ex parte application for custody is an application that is filed with the court asking for an order to be issued without a full-hearing on the issue, based only on the representations included in an affidavit attached to the application. It is only used in extreme situations when imminent physical or psychological danger threatens the physical and/or emotional safety and welfare of a child or children. If the judge issues an emergency ex parte order based on the application, the judge will schedule a hearing where both parties have the opportunity to appear within 14 days and the other party must be served at least 5 days before that hearing.

Even if the application is denied, the judge will enter a hearing date for the underlying allegations and claims for relief sought in the ex parte application.

Emergency ex parte applications for custody can be filed in emergency situations when an immediate and present risk of physical danger or psychological harm to the child or children exists.

Produce tangible evidence that demonstrates that your child or children are in immediate, imminent physical and/or psychological harm that threatens their safety or well being.

Examples of serious custody or visitation violations that may rise to a level that a family judge deems are not in the best interest of the child:

  • Frequently missed visitation times or exchanges (chronic and/or harmful patterns);
  • Consistent tardiness or early arrivals (that create disruption to the child’s routine and normal function);
  • Persistent disturbances designed to intentionally disrupt your visitation and/or scheduled time;
  • Refusal to take the kids to the doctors, school, therapy, etc.;
  • Verbal or physical abuse of the child;
  • Alcohol or substance abuse around the child;
  • Keeping the child with you for a longer visit than what is provided for in the custody or visitation order;
  • Failure to inform the other parent of the child’s whereabouts;
  • Taking the child on a vacation or trip without prior approval;
  • Taking the child out of the state or out of the country without approval (can lead to federal and international issues);
  • Allowing an unauthorized person to care for the child;
  • Attempts to interfere with the relationship between the child and the other parent;

By law, child custody arrangements are determined based on what is deemed to be in the best interests of the child.

Connecticut Family Court Judges must consider a broad range of statutory factors when determining what is in a child’s best interests and their formulation of the related custody orders. Judges have an enormous amount of discretion in weighing and balancing statutory factors when forming their court orders, which sixteen (16) factors include:

(1) The temperament and developmental needs of the child;

(2) the capacity and the disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child;

(3) any relevant and material information obtained from the child, including the informed preferences of the child;

(4) the wishes of the child’s parents as to custody;

(5) the past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the best interests of the child;

(6) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage such continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent as is appropriate, including compliance with any court orders;

(7) any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents’ dispute;

(8) the ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child;

(9) the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community environments;

(10) the length of time that the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity in such environment, provided the court may consider favorably a parent who voluntarily leaves the child’s family home pendente lite in order to alleviate stress in the household;

(11) the stability of the child’s existing or proposed residences, or both;

(12) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability of a proposed custodial parent or other party, in and of itself, shall not be determinative of custody unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interests of the child;

(13) the child’s cultural background;

(14) the effect on the child of the actions of an abuser, if any domestic violence has occurred between the parents or between a parent and another individual or the child;

(15) whether the child or a sibling of the child has been abused or neglected; and

(16) whether the party satisfactorily completed participation in a parenting education program.
Family Court Judges tend to favor orders that allow both parents to co-parent, and both actively participate, but this does not always mean equally.
Parents can negotiate and enter into child custody arrangements and parenting plans by agreement. In most cases, far better results are achieved by parents who manage to negotiate a child custody agreement/parenting plan through compromise than to go to trial and have a family judge decide.

A temporary custody order is a legal decision by the court to award physical and legal custody of a minor child to an adult who may or may not be the child’s legal parent for a set period of time. Temporary custody orders do not turn final and are only temporary. These may be ordered by the court pendent lite (during the case), or following a granting of an ex parte application (until the hearing on the ex parte application is heard).

Temporary custody orders do not become final orders without a new order from a judge. However, once a temporary custody order is put in place, it lasts until a date stated in the order, or until a judge makes a new custody ruling.

Yes, Police can enforce Child Custody Orders, but are reluctant to do so.  Generally, police officers avoid getting involved in family matters unless the custody or visitation violation rises to the level of a crime like child abuse, abduction, or kidnapping.  What happens when you call the police will vary greatly from town to town and which officers show up at your house.

When it comes to the health and safety of your kids, you should always trust your instincts. If by way of example, you have legitimate concerns for their well-being in the care of the other parent based on some prior knowledge or statement, you should call the police.

If your child or children are in immediate danger, CALL 911.

Depending on the situation, the officer may simply direct you back to court, but if you end up in front of a judge, you will at least have the police report as evidence to help support your case.

A Child Custody Agreement that has been approved by a Connecticut family law judge and entered as an order of the court is legally binding on the parties involved.

If a parent violates a court-ordered or agreed-upon parenting plan, they run the risk of being held in contempt of court upon a finding of a willful violation of a clear court order. The parent who violates the order can face serious consequences. Always remember, the Court’s primary directive is to determine and protect the best interests of the child.

With all that said, there are three ways to deal with and pursue enforce a Child Custody or Visitation Order:

COMPROMISE AND COMMON SENSE (negotiation with the help of a skilled family lawyer and perhaps some form of limited scope mediation or similar negotiation process);

POLICE INTERVENTION;

MOTION TO ENFORCE / MOTION FOR CONTEMPT (which seeks to enforce the order and/or hold the other parent in contempt of court for violating the court order);

Document and Gather Evidence of Violations

Keep a written record of all violations in a calendar or journal. Include dates, times, and detailed descriptions of each problem, event, problematic interaction. Timestamped social media posts, pictures, and texts can also be helpful. Keep copies of any police reports or other papers, including copies of emails and/or phone records.

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