When you obtain a court order after months of litigation, sleepless nights and mountains of attorney bills, you expect that this court order will be followed.  However, what happens when your former spouse or the other parent in your matter does not follow the court order?  What are your remedies and what can you expect to happen?

If you are faced with a situation where a party is not following a court order, you may be able to file a motion to have him or her found in “contempt”.  Contempt is a legal term which means that a person is deliberately and intentionally not following a court order.  The remedy for a contempt can range from financial sanctions, jail time and attorney fees.

At the contempt hearing it is important that you have evidence supporting your claim for contempt.  For instance, if you file a contempt motion because the other parent has not reimbursed you for half of the kid’s expenses, the court is going to want to have evidence that 1) the expenses was actually incurred 2) you presented the expense and the receipt and 3) he or she refused to pay.  In this circumstance, if you file a contempt, but do not have evidence that you provided the expenses request (email, certified mail or Our Family Wizard confirmation)  the court will be unable to find that the other parent acted intentionally in not paying you.  Accordingly, he or she will not be found in contempt.    Conversely, if you have documentation of emails, letters or the like requesting reimbursement and the other parent simply refuses it is likely the court will find him or her in contempt.   A person can be found in contempt for failure to follow any court order and the evidence required to support your client will vary.  It is crucial for the success of your claim that you have all the supporting documentation before you file.

If you are successful at a contempt hearing and the court finds the other party in contempt, he or she must be granted a purge.  A purge is a set of conditions that need to be complied with in order to avoid jail time. If a purge is not met, then the other party will have to serve the jail sentence ordered at the contempt hearing.  If the purge is met, then the reason for the contempt has been alleviated and the issue is considered resolved.

Attorney fees may be awarded if you are successful with your motion.  The amount of attorney fees awarded will vary depending on the circumstances of each case, the severity of the contempt and the amount of financial damage the contempt cost you.  It is also possible that you will not receive attorney fees despite the court finding the other party in contempt.  Contempt motions can be very detailed and require evidentiary hearings.  However, it is important that you do not tolerate the non-compliance of a court order.  Meet with an attorney to discuss your options.  At Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, we will meet with you to discuss your case and help you evaluate your options so you can determine the best course of action.  Call us at 414-258-1644 to schedule a free initial consultation or visit our website at http://www.nkmfamilylaw.com.


  1. My children’s father was ordered to pay me $166,000
    equalization in 2012.
    Despite the order, all he ever paid was $952 in 2015. What options are available to me?
    He was awarded property in excess of $758,000. I received the clothes on my back.

    • You need to file a contempt motion. I am surprised this hasn’t been done already. You should consult with an experienced divorce attorney right away. He could argue that since you waited too long, you waive your right to collect so it is important to take care of this ASAP!

      • I filed a contempt motion in 2016. The same judge that awarded the $758,000 farm (that I paid for) to the golddigger, dismissed the motion when golddigger assured the judge that he mailed me the checks, but that I just hadn’t cashed them.

  2. My children’s father is still leaving with hes mom and know he has two more kids and girlfriend they all sleep in one small room he told the court that the room was going to be only for the kids but my kids tell me that they all sleep in there

    • I’m sorry but I don’t know what your question is. This could be a significant concern but you need to speak with an attorney about what your options are. Good luck.

  3. My ex is refusing to give right of first refusal as court ordered. He leaves the kids with his parents while he works and I am off work. I don’t want to pay a fortune to go back just for a judge to say, follow the order. Is there a chance I could get full not joint based of his defiance to follow the order?

    • No, probably not. The remedy for this behavior is for someone to be found in contempt and sanctions are imposed. But, those sanctions rarely involve a change of custody and placement.

  4. Please someone help me. This is a 5 year nightmare. I won’t get into anything other then this. Recently my daughters father filed a ETC saying I was using drugs while I was in another state. (I wasn’t and He had our daughter) but he filed it and the judge allowed me exs friend to confirm I was using drugs ina mother state. I thought the whole thing was absolutely absurd.
    I agreed to drug tests and whatever else until mediation. We got to mediation and he didn’t agree on anything of course. Then we had another court hearing and he didn’t show up to this court hearing.
    I asked the judge if this means the ETC order is dismissed. He told me that he can not speak to me about the case without my ex present. . I was absolutely speachless. That he couldn’t talk to me about my own child.
    Well the judge then sends my ex a letter saying he didn’t show up to court (obviously he knew he didn’t. Not sure what the letter was for) and then another letter followed saying my ex was ordered to pay 500 for a GAL.
    This was in June of 2021.

    He hasn’t paid anything. He isn’t going to. He now is using his power of emergency custody as a weapon with me and our daughter. If I don’t give him what he wants. I don’t see my baby.
    So since June. He has assultrd me 2 x during pick up or drop off. So I got a restraining order and put the stipulation of meeting infront of police station. He still doesn’t show up. And says that he has custody.
    My question. Is he in contemt.? For using the gal to delay the court process. Also does he have emergency custody ? I can’t even call the cops when he doesn’t show up for drop off or pick up because I have no idea if I even have rights. Please help

    • I am sorry you are going through this. It sounds as if you definitely need representation. An attorney can expedite relief on this. He or she can review your case, determine what the current status is and what the next steps are. I would strongly advise that you consult with an attorney in your county. Most attorneys offer free consultations. Even if you can’t afford an attorney, they could give you some direction about what you need to do. It is impossible for us to do that on this forum. Good luck to you.

  5. What if ex has been held in contempt of court on four matters, two involving custodial interference? Currently there is a purge plan for makeup time to occur by January 1. Ex is stalling and stalling for makeup time and negotiating unreasonable makeup time dates (dates I work which means I would not even see our children). I am a nurse and work mandatory every other weekend. Which means I leave our home at 0530 and return in the evening as 1900. The weekends I have off are the weekends I already have our children. Ex is the custodial parent. The level of interference and lying to our child’s therapist about me not being able to have access to medical information has severely strained my relationship with my son.

    • I am sorry that you are having to go through this. Your best option is to consult with an attorney. Most attorneys offer free consultations and you will be able to go through all of your facts and your court order with them and they can then advise you on the best course of action. Good luck to you.

We welcome your comments or questions. We will do our best to try to respond. However, please be advised that we cannot give legal advice in this forum and all communications are for general informational purposes only. Communication should not be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. This is an open forum and any information you provide may be posted and will not be held confidentially. By posting a comment or question, you are expressly giving consent for the publication of same. If you have any specific legal issues or concerns, we always recommend that you consult with an attorney in the county and state in which you reside.

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