When a marriage ends in divorce, the former partners can seldom walk away from each other forever. Often a Pennsylvania court order dictates certain obligations they must meet, such as child support, spousal support, custody matters, and the division of assets and debts. These are not suggestions, and ex-spouses who fail to meet those obligations or to seek post-divorce modifications may find themselves facing accusations of contempt of court.

Contempt of court means someone has disobeyed the authority of the court. It is potentially a criminal offense with the potential for fines and even jail if convicted. The offended party may file a motion against the former partner for failure to make support payments or abide by other terms of the divorce order. That partner must then show the court proof of the violation, such as evidence that the other party has stopped paying child support.

If the contempt petition is sustained, the party in contempt may have a chance to make things right by meeting the obligations of the court order to avoid further penalties. However, it may be possible to avoid contempt charges altogether if the party has valid reasons for the violations of the court order. Instead of simply refusing to meet the obligations, the party may seek a modification of the order.

Spouses, or ex-spouses, under the mandate of a court order may be uncertain what to do when a job loss, medical emergency or other financial setback prevents them from meeting their obligations. It may be possible to obtain a temporary or permanent post-divorce modification of the court orders that may bring some relief without the fear of criminal charges. A Pennsylvania attorney can answer any questions about the process of seeking a modification.