Court orders should be obeyed, whether you are the parent with primary custody of your child or not. When your child’s other parent violates a court order, it might leave you feeling frustrated or even afraid. If they are willing to ignore an order by the court, what else might they ignore? You should not have to go through this alone. Virginia has laws intended to help you. The Norfolk family law attorneys at Montagna Law can show you how to use a show cause hearing to enforce the court’s orders.
Some court orders in family law cases remain in force for years. Child custody and child support orders, for example, remain in force at least until the child turns 18. As a party to a court order, you are partly responsible for enforcing it when the opposing party violates it.
A show cause hearing is a way to enforce a court order. You can petition the court for a rule to show cause, which requires the other person, known as the “respondent,” to appear in court to explain why they violated the previous order.
If the respondent convinces the judge, they will not face any penalties. They will, however, have to continue following the court order in the future. If the judge rules against the respondent, they may hold the respondent in contempt of court. This can lead to serious penalties, depending on the severity of the violation.
Violations of a court order that may lead to a show cause hearing might include:
When a Virginia court issues a rule to show cause, it puts a court date on its docket. You and the respondent must appear at the scheduled time for a hearing before a judge.
You may present your case for why the court should hold the respondent in contempt of court. Typically, you must provide evidence that the respondent willfully violated the order.
The respondent may present evidence to show that they did not willfully violate the order. This can be a difficult task. Virginia judges do not take kindly to violations of court orders. Convincing them that a violation was not intentional, or that it was even justifiable, often takes a highly skilled defense attorney. As the other interested party, you should have legal representation as well.
Virginia law has two types of contempt of court. You must state which kind you want to pursue when you petition the court for a rule to show cause.
The purpose of civil contempt is to compel a respondent to comply with a court order. The court can impose a fine or sentence the respondent to jail time until they “cure” the contempt. For example, a respondent who is withholding access to a child may face a fine that grows daily until they make the child available to the other parent.
This gives the respondent control over the severity of their own punishment. The punishment ends when they comply with the order.
Criminal contempt seeks to punish a respondent for conduct that has already occurred. A criminal case for contempt is prosecuted as a misdemeanor in the Commonwealth of Virginia’s name. It can result in a fixed fine and jail time, which can be up to one year in some cases. A respondent cannot cure this type of contempt, so they have no control over the punishment if convicted. Criminal contempt cases therefore have more due process protections than civil cases.
Montagna Law is a family law firm with decades of experience advocating for the rights of people in the Norfolk area. Our attorneys are recognized for their skill in multiple practice areas. Our lawyers and the firm as a whole have received honors from organizations and publications like Lawyers of Distinction, Super Lawyers, and Attorney and Practice Magazine.
The Virginia family law attorneys at Montagna Law have years of experience representing people in divorce cases and disputes over child custody, child support, and spousal support in Norfolk. We will provide you with legal advice and representation tailored to your needs. Call 877-622-8100 or complete our online contact form today to request a free consultation with a member of our team.
Jurisdiction over show cause hearings depends on the type of case. Circuit courts in Hampton Roads hear many family law cases, including divorces. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (JDR) hears certain other matters. A family law attorney can tell you more about which type of court would handle your rule to show cause.
You typically should not call the police unless there is immediate danger to your child. Enforcing child custody orders is not the police’s job. That said, calling the police during an incident with the respondent, such as domestic violence, creates a record of that incident that you can introduce as evidence in court.
You can appeal a show cause ruling.
If the court finds the respondent in contempt, it may order them to pay your court costs and attorney’s fees related to the rule to show cause and hearing.
Jon Montagna received a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from American University in Washington D.C. and graduated Cum Laude from the University of Miami School of Law in 1999. Jon practices law in the Hampton Roads Virginia area.