What if the other parent takes me to court for contempt for violating parenting time or visitation?

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

If the other parent takes you to court for contempt, they are asking a judge to decide that you are not obeying the court's order.

If the other parent files a Complaint for Contempt for violating parenting time or visitation, 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. If someone files a Complaint for Contempt against you:

File an Answer to the Complaint for Contempt.
Write on the Answer what really happened.

If anything the other parent says in their Complaint is wrong, write down what really happened. For example, maybe they told you that you could keep your child on a weekend that they were supposed to visit or have parenting time. Then they changed their mind. It is important to write down the whole story in your Answer. 

You can tell the judge if the other parent missed a lot of visits. It may help to keep a journal or notebook. Write down the times they used their parenting time or visits and the times they did not show up. If you can show the judge that the other parent hardly ever shows up, it may help you with the case.

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 have parenting time or visits your child because the other parent was drinking and it wasn't safe to let your child go, explain your reasons.

File your Answer in court by the due date.

Check the Summons to see when the Answer is due.

Send the Answer to the court by that day. Bring it in person if you can.

Mail a copy of the Answer to the other parent.

Or, mail it to their lawyer if the lawyer filed the Complaint for Contempt.

Make sure you go to court on the day of the hearing.

Bring copies of the Answer you gave to the other parent and the court just in case the papers are missing at the court. 

You can 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 the Complaint are not the whole story.

The judge may get upset that you did not follow the parenting time or visitation order. Be polite to the judge. You can tell the judge that you know it is important to obey court orders.

If you have documents or witnesses, bring them to court.

For example, a doctor's note can show that your child was sick on a day you did not let them visit with the other parent.

What happens if the judge finds that I am in contempt?

If the judge finds that you are in contempt, the judge might order you to let the other parent make up the missed parenting time or 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 order. Do not take matters into your own hands unless there is an emergency. If there is no emergency but you want parenting time or visitation to be different, go back to court and ask the judge to change the order.


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