Contempt of Court in a Divorce Case

Divorce decree, gavel and folder shot on warm wooden surfaceFollowing a divorce, many people find themselves in a position of hopelessness when their former spouse refuses to comply with a clear court order. However, New Hampshire law provides that a judge may find a person in contempt “upon a finding of the violation of any Court order”.

Upon a finding of contempt, the judge has the discretion to issue a finding which, literally, compels compliance. Any party may request that another party be found in contempt for violating an order of the Court by way of motion or petition, as the case may require. The applicable court rule states:

(1) Open cases. When a contempt action is brought in an open case, a proper filing includes: A Motion for Contempt that explains what court order is believed to have been violated; what specific conduct is alleged to have occurred in violation of the court order; and what relief is being requested of the Court. No filing fee is required. Notification to all parties may be accomplished by regular US mail.

(2) Closed cases. When a contempt action is brought in a closed case, a proper filing includes: A Petition for Contempt that explains what court order is believed to have been violated; what specific conduct is alleged to have occurred in violation of the court order; and what relief is being requested of the Court. A filing fee and personal data sheet are required. Notice to the party alleged to be in contempt must be accomplished by sheriff’s service in New Hampshire, or by any person authorized to make service if done outside of New Hampshire. Notice to other parties of the original action may be by regular US Mail.

In addition, depending on the severity of the contempt, the judge can order monetary sanctions or even a person to jail. Attachments or arrests and incarceration for civil contempt may be ordered by the Court upon a finding of the violation of any Court order, after notice and an opportunity to be heard. Parties may be arrested upon Court order and required to post bonds for appearance and compliance with court orders in any case where it shall be deemed necessary.

Even if you lose your job, or some other circumstance prevents you from complying with the order, you cannot ignore a court order. Instead, you should immediately consider seeking a modification of the court order.

In summary, if you believe that a person or entity is not following a court order, you should consult, if possible, an attorney to fully advise you of your rights.

For more information, contact Attorney Mike Fontaine