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What is 'contempt' with regard to family law in Georgia?

People in the United States often describe the country as a 'nation of laws.' This generally is supposed to mean that the law is applied equally across the social, political and economic spectrums, and that as part of reaping the benefits of living in society, we agree to be bound by that society's laws. But what does it mean to be 'bound by the law?' Sometimes the instrument that forces compliance is obvious, as with police forces enforcing laws prohibiting certain conduct.

But some may question, what about family law? What makes a, divorce decree or child support order more than just a piece of paper? In Georgia, as with most other states, family law orders are often enforced by the threat of being found in 'contempt of court.' What is 'contempt' with regard to family law in Georgia?

Georgia Code Section 19-6-28 models the way this generally works in the family law area. This statute specifically provides that family law courts have the ability to subject parties to punishments for contempt of court orders to the same extent they can in any other type of action. Such orders for contempt are commonly used in child support cases in which the person ordered to pay is not making the payments as ordered.

It can also be used in other situations where a court has ordered a party to do some act, such as take a person's name off the mortgage on a house, for example. Thus a person who is in non-compliance with a court order risks being found in contempt.

Usually, family courts use civil contempt concepts to require compliance with their orders. This means that the court gives the party in question an ability to 'purge' him or herself of the contempt by doing some action, like making a specified payment. There are a few rules with regard to what the court can order, which may be covered in a later post, but even civil contempt can result in a person's incarceration.

While not the only tool used by family courts to enforce compliance with their orders, civil contempt is one of the more often used method. Anyone with questions about enforcing a court order or defending him or herself against a motion for contempt may wish to consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney. This could help the individual make a informed decision regarding his or her situation.

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