It’s simple, really. You get the final judgment handed down, and both sides have rights and responsibilities they must abide by in order for your divorce to be fully legal. Sorry, those are the breaks. Unless there was pre-existing criminal activity going into the divorce, or any other mitigating circumstances, both sides get a piece of the action when it comes to settling up ending the marriage.

The upshot of that, however, is that both sides are bound to obey what’s been set or they’ll be held in contempt of divorce court. Remember, the divorce agreement is tantamount to a contract, meaning it’s a legally binding document. But, as with anything, there are ways to spectacularly screw up, and find yourself penalized, financially or otherwise. Indeed, you can even face jail time for being held in contempt of court.

So how can you find yourself on the receiving end of prosecution? It’s pretty simple, actually. Here are a few of the more obvious ways.

Don’t Pay Your Ordered Child Support – Unfortunately, this is probably the absolute most common way of being held in contempt. In fact, it’s so common that many, if not all, prosecutor’s offices, for whom this would fall into their jurisdiction, have separate departments set aside just so they can work on child support cases. Sad but true. So hey! Be part of the in-crowd and get on that Non-Payment Bandwagon!

Well, actually, don’t. It’s a horrible and wrong thing to do to your children. You really ought to know better, no matter how angry you are at your ex. It’s hardly the kids’ fault you’re in the situation you are. Pay something, even if it’s not the full amount, each time. Paying something towards it will show you have intent to pay, even if you’re hitting hard times. Communicating this to the custodial parent is even a better idea than just plain not paying. But of course, tread lightly, and make up for the amount in arrears as soon as humanly possible. Long story short, however, continuous non-payment is the easiest way to end up with a contempt charge.

Don’t Live Up To Your Scheduled Visitation Agreements – This is another fantastic way to go back before the judge. Reneging on your visitation is the other half of the Support/Visitation yin-yang. This can include a few various methods.

One, of course, is failure to show up, or otherwise live up to the schedule. This can include showing up late, returning the kids late, trying to weasel in more holiday time despite agreements, etc. (Of course, returning with the kids late, or not at all, without prior agreements, can also get you set up for kidnapping charges, so tread very carefully there! Or, again, DON’T DO IT.)

Another way of falling afoul of this is to simply refuse visitation. Yes, that’s right – you cannot refuse visitation as set by the divorce decree. It is not up to you. It is up to the courts to decide whether or not visitation by the children to the non-custodial parent can be disallowed. In doing so, you are basically saying that you have more authority than the courts, an attitude most judges tend to disapprove of. So, if you have issues with something going on, call a lawyer. (Unless the incident is something which directly affects the safety and well-being of the children. Then, call the police.)

Failure to Pay Your Debts – This is a tricky one, as a shocking amount of Americans today are in debt, in some form or another, some more than others. However, debts are one of the many items divided between a couple during a divorce. Unfortunately, debt division isn’t always readily reported to the various creditors. Believe me, I was getting repo notices on my front door for a car that I never drove once. If dealing with the creditors doesn’t work, you can be taken to court for your failure to live up to your end of the agreement.

These are but a few ways to get yourself in legal hot water. As always, however, don’t take what I say as gospel. With any legal questions and issues, consult an attorney or legal aid.

Better yet, though, just try not to do anything that will get you in trouble.

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