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What If the Other Parent Does Not Obey a Court Order? How To Ask For A Contempt Order

This article was produced by LARCC in cooperation with CLS, GHLA, NHLAA, and SLS.

What If the Other Parent Does Not Obey a Court Order? How To Ask For A Contempt Order

What can I do if the other parent does not obey a court order?

This article explains how to ask for a contempt order if the other parent has not paid court-ordered child support, alimony, or medical bills, or has not provided health insurance.

A parent who does not obey a court order can be found guilty of contempt. (Contempt means disobeying a court order.)

If you ask the court for a contempt order, the court can make the other parent go to court to explain why s/he has not followed the court's orders.

Custody or Visitation?

If the other parent has disobeyed a custody or visitation order, see our article, How to Change Your Custody or Visitation Order.

What if the order was made in another state?

  • If the court order was made in another state:
    You will need to go through the court that made the order. This article will not help you.
  • If the court order was made in Connecticut:
    You can ask for a contempt order in a Connecticut court. Keep reading this article.

Can I get help without going to court?

Yes. Go to the Family Services Office at the court where your orders were made. They may have mediation services that can help you and the other parent solve the problem. If Family Services cannot help you, follow the steps below.

Note: In some courts, Family Services is called Family Relations.

Do I need a lawyer?

You do not have to have a lawyer to ask for a contempt order. But it's a very good idea. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be able to get free legal help from Statewide Legal Services. If you decide not to have a lawyer, follow the steps below.

How do I ask for a contempt order?

Here are the steps to follow. Important! Some courts may have different rules. Check with your court clerk to make sure you are following the rules.

1. Fill out your court forms.

You must fill out two court forms. You can get them online (www.jud.ct.gov) or at the court clerk's office in the courthouse.

Motion for Contempt (form # JD-FM-173)
This form tells the court which orders the other parent has disobeyed.

Appearance (form #JD-CL-12)
If you don't have a lawyer, fill out an Appearance form.

You must also give a letter to the marshal.

Letter to Marshal (see below)
This form tells the marshal where to serve the other parent a copy of your Motion. (The other parent has the right to know.)

Filling out the Motion for Contempt form

Fill out the top part of the form. If you don't know the docket number or other court information, the court clerk can give you that information.

Do not fill out anything below the lines that reads "Order to Attend Hearing and Notice." The court will fill out the rest.

2. Take the forms to the court clerk's office.

Go to the clerk's office at the same court that made your current orders. Give the clerk your completed Motion and Appearance forms. The clerk will write a date and time on your Motion. That's the date of the court hearing when you and the other parent must go to court.

Make 3 copies of your Motion. You will need one to serve the other parent, one for the marshal to fill out, and one for your records.

Will I have to pay to file my forms?

No. There is no fee to file a Motion for Contempt.

3. Have a marshal serve the other parent a copy of the Motion.

You must ask a marshal to personally give (serve) the other parent a copy of the Motion.

To get a list of marshals in the area where the other parent lives or works, you can:

If the person lives out of state but a Connecticut court made the order, you still have to serve papers on the person.

• Call the State Marshall Commissions at 860-713-5372 for a recommendation. You need to know the county and state where the person lives. You may have to pay for out-of-state service. The court may not waive the costs for this. Talk to the court service center for more information.

Is there a deadline to have the marshal serve the other parent?

Yes. You must have the other parent served a copy of your Motion at least 5 days before your court hearing date. The clerk wrote the hearing date on your Motion form.

To do this you must take or mail the marshal these papers:

  • A completed Marshal's letter (see below)
  • The original Motion for Modification with the court hearing date, and
  • One copy of the Motion (Ask the marshal if you need to provide more than one copy).

Will I have to pay the marshal to serve the other parent?

  • If the court gave you a fee waiver, you will not have to pay.
  • If you did not get a fee waiver, you will probably pay around $50 - $75. Some marshals want payment right away. Others may let you pay after serving the other parent. You can call the marshal to find out about their fees.

4. File your forms with the court clerk.

The marshal will return your filed Motion form with the Return of Service section completed.

Make a copy of that form for yourself and take or mail the original to the clerk's office before your court hearing date.

If the marshal has not returned the form yet, call the marshal's office to confirm that service was made. The marshal may have already filed the form at the clerk's office.

Going to Court

5. Go to your court hearing.

Don't be late! It's best to arrive about 30 minutes early. You will need time to go through security and find your courtroom. If you have witnesses, they must arrive at the same time, too.

Go to the clerk's office. Ask how your case will be called. Some courts call calendars; some do not.

Calendar Called

  • If you and the other parent have a written agreement, say, "Ready with an agreement," when your name is called. The judge will tell you what to do next.
  • If you and the other parent do NOT have a written agreement, say, "Ready," when your name is called. You will probably meet with Family Services. They can help you work out an agreement or put your agreement in writing.

No Calendar Called

  • If you and the other parent have a written agreement, ask the clerk for a "Memo to the Clerk" form. Fill out this form to show the court you are ready to tell the judge about your agreement. Make sure you check that box that says, "Ready with an agreement."
  • If you and the other parent do NOT have a written agreement, look for your name on the list posted in the courthouse lobby. The list will say what courtroom you must go to. Go to that courtroom to meet with Family Services. You may have to put your name on the Family Services list. Family Services will try to help you and the other parent make an agreement. They will also help you write your agreement and show you where to sign.

What if I do not agree with Family Services' recommendations?

You do not have to accept Family Services' recommendation. You have a right to present your case to the judge and to let the judge decide.

There is no guarantee that the judge will agree with you. Even if you do not like the judge's decision, you must obey it.

The Court Hearing

When your name is called, say, "Ready."

Then go stand at one of the tables in the front of the courtroom and follow the judge's instructions.

  • You will probably have to swear to tell the truth before you present your case.
  • You will probably speak first. Keep it short and only talk about the reasons you asked for the contempt order.
  • If you believe the other parent disobeyed a court order, explain why. For example, you could say, "The other parent was ordered to make child support payments on [date], but has not made any payments."
  • The judge will ask you questions. Tell the truth. Speak slowly. Give complete answers.
  • When you finish explaining your case, the other parent will explain his/her side to the court. The other parent may ask you questions, too.
  • You will get another opportunity to ask the other parent or witnesses any questions that support your case. Your questions must be related to what they said in court.
  • Both parents may have another chance to:
    • Say you disagree with the other parent, and
    • Repeat the main points of your case.

TIPS for the court hearing

  • If you are asked questions:
    Tell the truth. Speak slowly. Give complete answers.
  • If you don't understand the question, say, "I don't understand the question."
  • Be polite to everyone in the courtroom. Do not interrupt. Do not argue. Do not get upset.
  • When other people are talking, wait for them to finish.
  • Speak only to the judge unless it is your turn to ask questions.

When will the judge decide my case?

The judge often decides cases at the end of the hearing. If this happens in your case, the judge will announce the orders in the courtroom while you are still there.

But for some cases, the judge may say, "I'll take the papers." That means the judge will decide later, and the clerk will mail you a copy of the judge's orders. If you do not hear from the court in a few days, call the clerk and ask about your case.

Marshal's Letter

Download a sample of the marshal's letter

This booklet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut in cooperation with Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services.

The information in this booklet is based on laws in Connecticut as of 1/2012. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice for an individual situation. Please call Statewide Legal Services or contact an attorney for additional help. © January 2012

For more information, contact:

Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).

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Most of the information on this web site is for Connecticut residents only. Visit LawHelp.org to find a legal services program and/or a legal information web site in your area.