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Contempt of court – what is a judgment (part 1)

A contempt of court motion can be filed whenever someone intentionally disobeys a court order. The element of whether or not someone intentionally failed to follow a court’s order is shown by proving that person acted in bad faith.

In one of my divorce cases, the court found the husband in contempt of court for his failure to pay work related daycare expenses (amongst with his failure to follow other court requirements). In Washington, a parent’s payment for daycare is contingent upon the parent working and being unable to care for the child. A person would not receive daycare reimbursement for hiring a babysitter or putting a child in daycare to have free time.

One of the reasons for the court’s contempt finding was the husband memorialized, in writing, that he would not pay his share of work-related daycare because he was not allowed to see his kids. The court required professionally supervised visits based on the husband’s failure to follow through with court-ordered treatment. The husband also said that he was not going to follow the court orders because he disagreed with them, which is never a defense.

This leads me to the subject matter of this post, which is what is a judgment? A judgment can be entered as a result of filing a contempt motion. A contempt motion is filed based on a person’s failure to pay a court ordered support obligation. Examples of court ordered support obligations are spousal maintenance or alimony; child support; or an individual’s proportional share for paying extracurricular activities, uninsured medical expenses or work related daycare.

The unfortunate part of having a judgment is that it is worthless if the opposing party is “judgment proof.” An individual is “judgment proof” if the person does not have any assets to attach liens to or has limited funds making it difficult to garnish paychecks (this includes unemployment checks). Although a court order may state that a person is to receive money, the unfortunately reality is that the person may not be able to collect it because the opposing party has limited funds. While receiving a judgment for failure to pay on a court ordered obligation is the preferable remedy, other sanctions can be requested or imposed which will be the focus of the next blog post.

This is part one of a three part series concerning contempt of court and possible remedies.

Disclaimer: Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case. Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case.