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Consequences of Violating Illinois Divorce and Support Orders

Court orders are, for all intents and purposes, extensions of the very laws that are used by judges, attorneys and self represented litigants. If we consider a sports metaphor, the laws are the rule book whereas the court’s orders are the game plan. Orders can be either permissive or prohibitive.

Court orders are, for all intents and purposes, extensions of the very laws that are used by judges, attorneys and self-represented litigants. If we consider a sports metaphor, the laws are the rule book whereas the court’s orders are the game plan. Orders can be either permissive or prohibitive.

Permissive Orders in Illinois Divorces

A permissive order grants a certain party permission to engage in a specified conduct. For example, in a dissolution of marriage proceedings where the parties cannot agree how to distribute their various vehicles, a court may grant permission for Spouse A to retain possession of a certain vehicle.

On the opposite spectrum, orders can also be prohibitive. Using the same hypothetical above, a prohibitive order not granting Spouse B possession of the vehicle may require that Spouse B be restricted from concealing, conveying or otherwise transferring the vehicle in any manner that would preclude Spouse A from taking possession. 

Any and all orders would be applicable to the article, not just orders dealing with distribution of property in a dissolution proceeding. Child support orders, allocation judgments (also known as parenting plans), and money judgments are just a few examples of orders that can be subject to separate contempt proceedings if the orders are violated.

What constitutes a violation of a court order?

Any non-conformity with the terms of a court order can be enforced through contempt proceedings. If the order specifies that a party must perform a certain action within a certain time frame, and that party fails to do so, contempt proceedings can be brought against that individual.

For example, sticking with our vehicle hypothetical, let’s say Spouse B was ordered to turn over all keys, insurance cards and anything else Spouse A would need to maintain possession of the vehicle within 48 hours.

Two weeks later, Spouse B has made no efforts to turn over the keys, insurance cards or anything else Spouse A needs. Spouse A can now file a petition seeking Spouse B be found in contempt for their failure to obey the court order.

How does an court find someone in contempt?

Merely disobeying, or failing to follow, a court order does not lead to a per se finding of contempt. The party who is seeking the contempt finding must allege sufficient facts at hearing to demonstrate the violating party’s conduct is of such a nature that the disobedience cannot be excused. This is not to say that a disobedient party can get out of following the order without repercussions if their failure to do so was justified.

The order is still a valid order and must be followed unless and until the court enters a subsequent order modifying, removing or all together terminating the prior order. Whether or not a disobedient party’s failure to comply with the order does not go towards whether the order needs to be followed (again, the order is still valid and must be followed). The failure to comply does, however, goes towards whether or not the disobedient party is levied additional penalties. 

What are the consequences of violating an Illinois Child Support order?

Generally, if a party violates or fails to comply with an order, and their failure to do so is found unjustified, that party will be found in contempt. When a party is found in contempt, the most common penalty assessed is attorney’s fees. 

For an all-too-common example, let’s shift the hypothetical to a child support case. Spouse A is awarded $1,000 per month in child support. Spouse B, despite having the means to pay the child support ordered by the court, decides not to do so due to the parties’ marriage ending in a very contested divorce. After a year of receiving no support, Spouse A then hires a lawyer to file a petition against Spouse B for their failure to pay child support as ordered by the court.

Between preparing and filing the petition, presenting it to the court, scheduling a hearing and, ultimately, prevailing at hearing, Spouse A’s legal costs total $2,500. The court can, and most definitely will if found in contempt, order Spouse B to pay a total of $12,000 to Spouse A for one years’ worth of back due child support and an additional $2,500 to Spouse A’s attorney for the legal fees (or to Spouse A directly if Spouse A has already covered the costs). 

Violating Illinois Divorce Court Orders, Violating Illinois Child Support Orders

Courts will sometimes set what is known as a “purge amount,” which is a percentage of the overall arrearage.

The judge can order that a purge amount of 50% of the child support arrearage, or $6,000 be paid within 60 days. If after 60 days, the purge amount is paid, the judge can remove the contempt finding.

If, on the other hand, the purge amount is not paid when ordered, the judge can order a body attachment be issued and subject the disobedient party to a period of incarceration.

Just the same as the above explanation that a justified disobedience does not negate the underlying court order’s requirements, a period of incarceration does not negate the amounts ordered to be paid.

The disobedient party, likely, is only making it harder on themselves to pay the purge as they won’t have income during that period and the purge amount remains the same. 

If you believe the opposing party in your case has failed to properly comply with a court order, please feel free to contact us to schedule a free consultation.

Contact our experienced and affordable Illinois divorce and family lawyers at 708-299-5827 or email us today for a  free consultation to learn how we can protect you and your family's interests during your Oak Forest divorce or family legal matter.

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