Section 452.365 R.S.Mo. provides Missouri courts with a number of options to coerce compliance of a dissolution, paternity or modification judgment. One of the most effective options is contempt. Contempt actions can force compliance of custody or visitation orders, property divisions and/or monetary judgments. In contempt actions, the court, after a hearing, can order the non-complying party to fulfill the terms of the judgment or risk incarceration.
After the contempt action is filed, we work closely with our clients to prove with detailed evidence that the non-complying party has failed to comply with the court’s judgment and to show that the non-complying party had the ability to obey the judgment, but chose not to obey with conscious disregard of the court’s orders. Part of our preparation for trial is preparing individualized arrearage calculations and meeting with our clients to discuss their trial testimony and documentary evidence proving non-compliance. One of the most effective means of coercion for the non-complying party is incarceration. The court, after hearing, can order the non-obeying party to jail until such time as he or she performs the act ordered by the court. We have found in our years of practice that when faced with the penalty of jail time, the non-complying party will ultimately abide by the judgment and pay what is owed or otherwise obey the court’s judgment.
Alternatively, we have utilized our experience in trying contempt actions as means of defending our clients who are wrongly accused of violating a court’s judgment. In order to be successful in proving contempt, the moving party must show the other party has refused to comply with a prior court order. After that, it is up to the non-compliant person to prove they either did not violate the order or that the violation was unintended. We use the same tenacious approach to prosecuting a contempt action to defend our clients against unwarranted contempt judgments.
We coordinate our approach to each contempt case after carefully listening to our client’s goals, pursuing every avenue of law available and being prepared for trial. While we cannot guarantee success in any case law, we have a strong and proven track record in both defending and pursuing contempt actions.