How Do You Prove Contempt?

Imagine the scene: your ex tells you you can’t see the kids on your weekend. Why? Who knows. Just ’cause.

And imagine this scene: your ex doesn’t pay child support even though he/she is ordered to in your divorce decree.

What do these scenes have in common? Well, they’re both violations of a court order. And how do you handle it when your ex violates the court’s order?

The most common way to handle the situation is to file for contempt. (In lawyer speak it’s called an “order to show cause.”) If you’re successful in proving your ex is in contempt, your ex will be sanctioned and you could get your attorney fees paid. Good deal, but how do you prove contempt?

A recent Utah Supreme Court case answered this question. It said you have to prove three things against your ex:

  1. That your ex knew what was required under the court order/divorce decree.
  2. That your ex had the ability to comply with the court order/divorce decree.
  3. That your ex intentionally failed or refused to comply.

Summer v. Summer, 2012 UT App 159 ¶ 8.

That same case then goes on to explain you have to prove each of these three things by “clear and convincing evidence.”

Clear and convincing evidence is a pretty high standard, so you should only file for contempt if you have good evidence. If you come to court with he-said-she-said type evidence, you will not prove contempt. You have to put together good, solid evidence (e.g., texts, emails, bills, documents).

Don’t let your ex take advantage of you by violating your divorce decree. You can hold feet to the fire.

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