What Are the Consequences of Being Found in Contempt in Virginia?
Once a Virginia family court issues an order granting child support, that order becomes legally binding on the parent ordered to pay support. If you have been ordered to make regular child support payments, but you fail to stay current on those payments, your co-parent has a number of tools at his or her disposal to obtain those funds or exert pressure on you to become current. For example, your ex could obtain a wage assessment, which would result in a portion of your pay going directly to your co-parent before you get your check. Your ex could also seek to have your professional license or driver’s license taken away. However, the sanction that could have the greatest negative impact on you would likely be a jail sentence pursuant to the court holding you in contempt.
When either party to a divorce violates an order issued by the court as part of a divorce or child custody dispute, the other party and their lawyer can file what’s known as a Petition for a Rule to Show Cause seeking to have the violator held in contempt of court. If, after a hearing, the court finds that the order was violated, the judge can impose any of a number of sentences. A judge can sentence the non-paying parent to jail, imposing what’s known as a “purge bond” in the amount of the back child support which must be paid before the parent can be released. The judge could also sentence the non-paying parent to jail with work release, with the income earned from the work taken to reduce the amount of child support owed. In fact, a judge can sentence a person found in contempt of court to up to 12 months of jail time.
Nonpayment of child support is not the only reason a Virginia judge could find one parent in contempt of court. Any violation of a court order, if sufficiently serious, can result in a finding of contempt. For example, if the court issued an order granting weekly overnight visitation at your home with your child, but your ex took your child when she moved to a neighboring state, then your ex would be in violation of the court’s order.
Rather than being subjected to possible jail time or work release when you fall behind on child support payments, take steps before you are found in contempt to avoid violating the court’s order. For example, if you become unemployed and know that you will not be able to make your full child support payment any longer, get an attorney’s help in seeking a modification of child support from the court in advance. The judge will be much more sympathetic if you are proactive in seeking help and not deeply in arrears before explaining the reason that you fell behind in payments. A skilled Virginia fathers’ rights attorney can also help you negotiate with an ex who has prevented you from seeing your child in violation of a court order, and, should those negotiations fail, help you file a Petition for a Rule to Show Cause against your ex in court.
If you are facing a Virginia custody battle or divorce, make sure you are represented by a family law attorney who will fight for your rights by contacting the family law attorneys at the Pack Law Group for a consultation, at 540-586-7225.