NC: Contempt & Enforcement

When a judge signs an order, it is enforceable through the contempt powers of the court.  To establish a party subject to the order is in contempt of court, the party filing the contempt motion must show that:

  • The order is still in effect;
  • The purpose of the order can still be served by compliance with the order;
  • The failure to comply with the order was willful; and
  • The party was able to comply or take reasonable steps to comply with the order.

You can be found in contempt of an order even if it was a consent order.  Once the judge signs the order, it is not just an agreement between the parties anymore.  A party found in contempt can be faced with monetary sanctions and/or imprisonment. It is important to consider your own compliance with an order before you take action against someone else.  Otherwise, you will be inviting an action yourself.  The ability to enforce any order is always dependent on the facts and circumstances of the specific order and the situation you are facing. Whether you need to bring an action to enforce terms of an order, like payment of child support, or you need to defend yourself against a motion for contempt, you should see an attorney.  It is a more complicated legal claim than many people think, and you may need help. We will help you look at every possible solution.

Separation Agreement Violations

When a party has violated provisions in a separation agreement, he or she cannot be held in contempt because there is no court order. To force compliance, the party who wishes to enforce terms in a separation agreement must file an action for specific performance. Specific performance is a special contract enforcement action for family contracts like separation agreements. These actions can be lengthy, costly, and can even involve a trial in front of a jury. These actions are not for the faint of heart. We pay careful attention to how to ensure someone is forced to comply with an order of the court or an agreement reached by the parties, and we counsel people about whether an agreement or an order is the better option for their case.