How to File a Motion for Contempt in a Divorce Case

By Rob Jennings J.D.

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The battles in your divorce case don't always end when the judge rules on the last open issue. You may find yourself going back to court to enforce the court's order after the other side refuses to obey it. When someone willfully fails to follow a court order, despite having the ability to do so, the court can hold him in contempt. In order to have someone held in contempt, you will have to file a motion first.

Draft your motion for contempt using the same format as your other pleadings. Start with the case caption and title your document "Motion for Contempt." Set forth each allegation in numbered paragraphs. Begin by identifying the specific order being violated, then state what the order requires and how the other side hasn't followed it. Allege that your opponent had the ability to comply. After your allegations, identify what you want the court to do. In this case, you want the other party held in contempt.

Sign and date your motion after your last prayer for relief. If your state requires that contempt motions be verified, include a verification page and sign that, too. A verification is a sworn statement that the signor has read the document and swears that its contents are true and accurate. You'll probably have to sign in front of a notary public. Read your state's verification statute to make sure you're swearing to the right things.

Prepare a certificate of service, which certifies to the court that on a specific date you served the other party (or his attorney of record) at the last known address in the court file. If your opponent has no lawyer and has changed addresses, prepare a sheriff's service form. Proof of service will show not only that the other side was actually served, but it will show when he was served. This will let the judge know that the other side had adequate notice of the contempt hearing. Sign and date your certificate of service on the date you actually file the motion.

Take everything you want to file, along with two copies of each document, to the courthouse in the county where your case is being heard. Go to the family court division and tell the clerk you want to file a contempt motion. The clerk will file-stamp your copies, keeping the original for the court file. Keep one stamped copy for your records and serve the other copy upon your opponent as required by state law.

Serve a calendar notice along with your motion. Calendaring systems vary not only by state, but also by county within a given state, so check with the clerk's office to see when your case can be heard and exactly how you get on the docket. Calendar the case far enough out to comply with the notice provisions of your state's law. Make sure that your certificate of service (or sheriff's service) indicates that the calendar notice is being served, too.