Contempt Charges in Alabama Divorce

Learn about contempt of court in an Alabama divorce case.

In Alabama, a court can charge you with contempt for not complying with the terms of your divorce decree. In family law, the court can use a contempt charge to enforce the payment of child support, or any other aspect of a divorce decree or custody order. Here are some questions and answers about contempt charges in family law.

What is contempt of court?

A contempt of court charge is the court’s way of punishing someone for not following its orders. In family law, you can get charged with contempt of court for not paying child support or not following any other order in your divorce decree. If the court charges you with contempt, you will be notified and you will have to go to a hearing during which the court will hear evidence of your wrongdoing. If you do not go to the hearing, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest. If the court finds you guilty of contempt, it can punish you with fines or jail time. However the goal of the punishment is to force you to comply with the court’s order.

Can I charge my ex with contempt for not complying with our divorce decree?

You ask the court to charge your ex with contempt of court for not complying with a court order. In Alabama, this request for a contempt charge is also known as a Petition for Rule Nisi.

How much will it cost to petition the court for a contempt charge?

You will pay a filing fee to the court. You may also have to pay a process server to serve your ex with the notice of your petition. Also, if you hire an attorney, you will pay attorney's fees – these could range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the circumstances of your case.

Can I petition the court for a contempt charge without hiring a lawyer?

Yes, you can represent yourself. But unless you have access to good legal information about how this process works in your county court, you may want to at least consult with a lawyer first.

If I cannot afford a lawyer, can the court force by ex to pay my legal fees?

The court has the discretion to award attorney's fees in contempt cases, but there is no guarantee a fee will be awarded. You may want to check with your local legal aid or legal services group for assistance.

Do I have other options for getting my ex to pay child support?

Yes. In Alabama, the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Department of Human Resources (DHR)’ is dedicated to enforcing child support orders. Learn more about Applying for Child Support Services with the DHR.

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