Contempt Actions for Failure to Pay Child Support in Georgia

If your co-parent is not paying child support payment, you have a right to file a contempt action in a Georgia court. Georgia law allows parents to file contempt actions to address non-compliance issues such as failure to pay child support and failure to follow the child visitation guidelines. 

Parents can seek contempt actions for failure to comply with the terms laid out in the Order of the Court. If your co-parent is refusing to pay the child support, he or she is required by law to pay; you could benefit from skilled legal representation. At Carter/Pilgrim, our Georgia family lawyers have an in-depth understanding of the process of enforcing Orders of the Court. We can file a contempt action with the court on your behalf. Contact our law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

Filing a Contempt Action in a Georgia Court

When a co-parent fails to follow the terms set forth in the Order of the Court, the other co-parent has a right to file a contempt action. To submit a contempt action, the party initiating the action must have proper standing. Only former spouses or parents of the child who are required to receive child support, alimony, division of property, or child custody have the standing needed to bring a contempt action. 

The initiating parent must show that the offending parent failed to comply with an Order of the Court. The initiating parent will need to show evidence that the other co-parent somehow violated the terms of the agreement. For example, the initiating parent could submit evidence of unpaid child support, canceled checks, or checks that do not pay the full amount of child support required in the relevant Order of Court.

If the other party failed to comply with the child visitation or custody agreement, the parent initiating the contempt action would need to provide evidence. He or she could submit evidence or testimony that the other co-parent failed to surrender the children after his or her time with them was up. 

Where Should a Co-Parent File a Contempt Action?

Usually, the initiating parent will need to file the contempt action in the same court that entered the initial order. Nonetheless, any court can obtain authority or jurisdiction to enforce the order of another court if one party petitions that court to modify the initial order. The parent initiating the contempt action must serve the offending party with the motion for contempt personally. In this way, the contempt action is similar to filing a divorce complaint. 

The offending parent has a right to reasonable notice of any contempt action hearings. The offending parent also has a right to be heard at any hearing regarding the motion for contempt. Offending parties have a right to defend themselves in court during the proceedings for the motion for contempt. 

Answering the Motion for Contempt

Once a party has been served the motion for contempt, the alleged offender has 30 days to answer the motion for contempt. The offender has two options after receiving notice of the motion for contempt. He or she can respond to the motion and offer a defense. Or, the offender may purge the contempt by changing his or her actions and complying with the initial order of the court. When an offender chooses the second option and complies, he or she must also pay for any past due child support obligations.

By remedying the situation, the defendant effectively purges himself or herself of the contempt charge. Should the defendant provide a defense of his or her action, the defendant must show that no failure to comply with the order took place. Or, he or she must show that the non-compliance that took place was not willful. 

Proving That the Offending Parent’s Failure to Comply Was Willful

The petitioner must show that the offending party’s failure to comply with the initial order was willful. In other words, the petitioner must show that the co-parent meant to fulfill his or her obligation under the order but willingly chose not to do so. For example, the petitioner would need to show that the offending party knew about the visitation schedule, and willfully ignored the schedule. 

In child support cases, the petitioner would need to prove that the offending parent has a job and makes sufficient income to pay the required amount of child support. Additionally, the petitioner would need to show that the offender willfully chooses not to fulfill his or her required child support obligations. 

Failure to Pay Child Support in Georgia

Parents who fail to pay child support in Georgia face serious penalties, including contempt citations, driver’s license suspensions, and denial of passport applications. In some severe cases, Georgia courts will impose incarceration for parents who fail to pay enough child support. The most significant penalty a Georgia court can impose is the termination of parental rights. 

Contact Our Skilled Family Law Attorneys Today

Contempt actions can quickly become complicated legal matters. These actions rely on both co-parents submitting evidence to prove their side of the story. Obtaining evidence usually requires a discovery process, and can involve expert analysis and expert testimony. If you are considering filing a contempt action, or you need to defend yourself against a contempt action, you will need an experienced family law attorney on your side.

At Carter/Pilgrim, we have decades of combined experience fighting on our clients’ sides during contempt action hearings. We understand how frustrating it is to try to parent without receiving the legally required amount of child support. When one co-parent disregards an initial order, you have a right to enforce the order through Georgia courts. We will thoroughly investigate your case and provide you with excellent legal representation. Contact our Atlanta, Georgia family law attorneys today to learn how we can fight for your best interests.