When Family Court judges issue orders, they expect their orders to be followed. To make sure their orders are followed, the Family Court judges have the authority to hold someone in contempt of court, and to sentence them to up to one year in jail, and/or fine them up to $1,500, and/or require them to perform 300 hours of community service. That’s a pretty big hammer.
But how does the Family Court know when its orders have not been followed? There is no special agency tracking people to make sure they are in compliance with court orders. Instead, it is up to a party to the order to act to enforce the order.
So the Family Court is unaware whether its orders are being followed UNLESS a party to the order, following the procedures and in writing, asks the court to enforce the order. The procedural mechanism is called a Petition for Rule to Show Cause, and it asks the court to schedule a hearing and force the other party to explain why it should not be found in contempt of court. The Petition for Rule to Show Cause must identify the specific order alleged to have been violated, the specific facts demonstrating violation of the order, and the specific remedy being sought by the filer of the Petition for Rule to Show Cause.
If the Family Court judge is convinced that an enforcement issue has arisen, then the judge will issue a Rule to Show Cause requiring the accused party to appear in court at a designated date, time and place to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of court.
The contempt hearings are detailed and technical, and the consequences of failure may be severe. Having an attorney who is experienced in Family Court, experienced and knowledgeable about Rules to Show Cause, and meticulous and hardworking may mean the difference between success and failure.