If you are living under a Family Court Order – whether the order covers alimony, child support, custody and visitation, property division, restraining orders, or any combination of these – your Charleston divorce attorney should have thoroughly warned about the powers of the Court to enforce their orders. Many people, however, seem not to understand what the Court can do if violations are brought to their attention. Let’s review.
If a judge determines that you are willfully in contempt of court, he or she has the authority to do any of the following:
1 – impose a fine of up to $1,500.00;
2 – sentence you to up to one year in jail; and
3 – require community service of up to 300 hours.
These penalties are cumulative, which means that they increase in severity as the number of violations increase. These penalties are also intended to be coercive, meaning that the judge does not really want you to go to jail; he or she wants you to do what you are required to and to stop doing what you are not supposed to do.
A typical sentencing would sound something like this: “This Court finds you in civil contempt of court for your willful violation(s) of your Order dated ____, and I sentence you to 3 months in the Charleston County Detention Center plus a civil fine of $500.00, suspended upon your payment of the past due child support of $750.00 (or whatever was alleged), payment of the fine, (and possibly payment of the other side’s attorney’s fees and costs).” In other words, pay up and you will not need to go to jail this time.
You obviously don’t want to hear these words. Deputies are standing by in each courtroom with handcuffs and ready to transport you to the Detention Center. Avoid this situation. It is very traumatic, and creates a terrible paper trail for you in Family Court. Before your situation gets to this point, consult a Charleston divorce attorney about being proactive in solving your problems. Remember, creativity is required to solve these problems. Experience counts.