If the other parent takes you to court for contempt, he is asking a judge to decide that you are not obeying the court's order. If the other parent files a Complaint for Contempt, a sheriff or constable will serve you with a copy of the complaint and a "Contempt Summons." A “Contempt Summons” is a paper that tells you to go to court on a certain day.
Contempt hearings are very serious
- File an Answer to the Complaint for Contempt.
- Write on the Answer what really happened:
- If anything the other parent says in his complaint is wrong, write down what really happened. For example, maybe he told you that you could keep your child on a weekend that he was supposed to visit. Then he changed his mind.It is important to write down the whole story in your Answer.
- If you did not obey the court order, write down your reasons. Why did you not obey the court order? For example, if you did not let the other parent see your child because the other parent was drinking and it wasn't safe to let your child go, explain your reasons.
- Check the summons to see when the Answer is due.
- Send the Answer to the court by that day.
- Mail a copy of the Answer to the other parent or to his lawyer if the lawyer filed the Complaint for Contempt.
- Make sure you go to court on the day of the hearing. Tell the judge if the other parent wrote something about you in the Complaint for Contempt that is not true, or if the facts in his complaint are not the whole story. The judge may get upset that you did not follow the visitation order. Be polite to the judge. Tell the judge that you know it is important to obey court orders.
- If you have witnesses, bring them to court. If you have documents, bring them. For example, a doctor's note can show that your child was sick on a day you did not let her visit with the other parent.
If the judge finds that you are in contempt, the judge might order you to let the other parent make up the missed visits. The judge can also order you to pay the other parent’s court costs or lawyer’s fee.
You should try to follow the court's visitation order. Do not take matters into your own hands unless there is an emergency. If there is no emergency but you want visitation to be different, go back to court and ask the judge to change the visitation order.
If the other parent says that you can keep your child on a day he normally visits, or that you can change the time of the visits, ask him to put it in writing. If you cannot get it in writing from him, write down what he said in your visitation journal. Either way, it will be clearer that something different was supposed to happen. It will be harder for him to claim later that you did something wrong.
Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services updated and revised Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Last updated October 2009