Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

What happens if a party fails to obey a court order?

Accountability is important for Salt Lake City residents, particularly when someone else has done something improper against them. In the legal system, there are certain ways to hold others accountable for their actions, and certain methods which should not be pursued.

Last week, for instance, this blog discussed how a custodial parent should not withhold visitation for a non-custodial parent who is behind on child support payments. Instead, parents should seek legal means of child support enforcement, such as petitioning the court to enforce the existing child support order.

Under Utah law, a party seeking to enforce a court order can file what is known as a motion for an order to show cause. Like any other motion, the party filing this motion should support it with facts showing why it is necessary for the court to act.

If the party can show these necessary facts, the court will then set a hearing and require the other party to be present and explain why they have not violated the existing order, or, in other words, to show cause. Both parties can tell their side of the story to the judge at the hearing, after which the judge can make a ruling as to whether the other side has violated a court order.

If the judge concludes an existing child support order has been violated, the court can take a number of different actions and impose different penalties. For instance, the court could impose fines, or in extreme cases, even jail time, if a party is held in contempt of court.

Accordingly, when child support, child custody or other orders are not followed, individuals should understand the process for enforcing those orders. By following the correct process, individuals can hold the other side accountable for their actions and obtain the legal relief they deserve.

Source: Utah Courts, "Motion to Enforce Domestic Orders," accessed on March 12, 2016

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