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Holding a Person in Contempt for Violating a Utah Divorce Decree

What are your options if your ex-spouse violates the divorce decree? Perhaps she refuses to pay child support, or he is behind on his alimony payments. Or perhaps she refuses to pay the credit card debt allocated to her in the decree, or he interferes with your parent-time. If so, you have a relatively quick and effective tool to fix the problem. The Utah divorce attorneys at Snow Jensen & Reece can help you file the necessary paperwork to enforce the decree.

You will need to file what is called an "ex parte motion for order to show cause." The motion requests that your spouse "show cause" why he or she should not be held in contempt for their actions. If your motion meets the requirements, the judge will sign an order that requires your ex-spouse to appear at a hearing. This order must be served on your ex-spouse. The next step is a hearing at the courthouse during which your attorney will put on evidence of your ex-spouse's violations of the decree. In order to show contempt, your Utah divorce attorney will need to prove three things: (1) that your ex-spouse knew what was required of him/her, (2) that he/she had the ability to comply, and (3) that he /she knowingly and willfully refused to do so.

If the person is found to be in contempt, he/she will be sanctioned (penalized). The penalty for contempt is a possible 30-day jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. He/she will also be ordered to pay your attorney fees. The court will give your ex-spouse a chance to "cure" or fix the contempt-to avoid jail time and the $1000 fine-by immediately paying alimony or child support or making the kids available for parent-time or taking whatever other action required under the decree. If your ex-spouse fails to do so, he or she will go to jail.

If your rights are being violated, take action. You need not sit idly by while your ex-spouse further sabotages your financial position or jeopardizes the best interests of your children. The experienced Utah divorce attorneys at Snow Jensen & Reece can successfully steer you through the contempt process.

-Jonathan P. Wentz, Senior Associate Attorney at Snow Jensen & Reece (Mr. Wentz practices domestic relations law, among other areas of law, at Snow Jensen & Reece.)

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