As part of divorce decree enforcement, it may be necessary to initiate contempt proceedings.  A contempt proceeding is one in which one party attempts to enforce the specific terms of an existing Court Order because of the other party’s deliberate and willful non-compliance with an existing Court Order.  As an example, if a party refuses to pay child support, the recipient of child support may bring a contempt action to hold the obligor in Contempt of Court because of the deliberate and willful failure to pay child support.  A contempt action can also be brought for other issues (example:  a party not complying with the parenting time provisions of a court order, a party not complying with the requirement to carry health insurance for the minor children, etc).  The issue, almost always, is willful and deliberate non-compliance with the specific terms of a Court Order.  For example, if a person cannot pay child support because he or she recently lost a job, this may constitute a defense to an action for Contempt as opposed to a situation where a party has the resources to pay child support but simply chooses to not pay it. A Minnesota Contempt action can be complicated and expensive because it is a two-fold process.  First, the party petitioning the Court to hold the other party in Contempt must obtain an Order to Show Cause from the Court (which is done by providing supporting affidavits to the Court).  Once the Court signs the Order to Show Cause based upon the facts in the supporting affidavit(s), the offending party must be personally served (by a commercial process server or Sheriff). Once the Contempt Order is personally served, the offending party must appear at an admit-deny hearing where the party defending the contempt action can either admit the allegations or deny the allegations.  If the allegations are admitted, the Court can hold the offending party in Contempt.  If the allegations are denied, the Court must hold an evidentiary hearing where the Court decides whether or not the offending party should be held in Contempt of Court.  The party defending the contempt action can present evidence as to why the non-compliance was not deliberate and why he or she should not be held in Contempt of Court. If the Court finds a party in Contempt of Court, the Court sentences the offending party to jail; however, the offending party is always given the opportunity to correct the non-compliance and to avoid the jail sentence.  This is referred to as “purge” conditions.  If the offending party complies with the Court’s instructions and complies fully with the purge conditions, the jail sentence can be avoided.  If the offending party does not follow the purge conditions, the jail sentence is imposed.

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