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Contempt of Court, Due Process of Law, and Child Custody/Timesharing Cases in South Florida

Almost all parents want to provide the best for their child. They also often believe that what’s best for their child is for that child to live with them, which can be a recipe for discord when addressing issues of child custody and timesharing in a Florida divorce. Miami is, of course, a truly international city, which means that, in this area, divorces may involve parents not simply in different states but in different continents. If a parent believes that the other parent is not following the court’s rules, the law gives that parent certain rights, including seeking an order of contempt. The other parent has rights too, including the basic right to due process of law. Whether you are the parent going to court or the one being brought into court, be sure to protect your rights and your family by retaining a skilled South Florida child custody attorney for your case.

A recent Miami case presented this type of issue of international timesharing. Bronislaw and Monika were married in Poland. The couple had one child. Eventually, the couple decided to divorce, which was litigated in Poland. Later, the mother brought herself and the child to Miami on a visitor visa.

The father alleged that the mother absconded from Poland with the child. The Polish court apparently did not agree, creating a custody arrangement in which the mother had majority timesharing. The father was allowed to bring the child to Poland during his time, but only on the condition that the child return to Florida at the end of each visit.

During the summer of 2017, the mother became concerned that the father was planning to take the child to Poland and not return. The mother went to court, and the judge ordered the father’s attorney to instruct his client not to leave the country. The father and child, however, were already in Poland by the time the court made that demand.

In late November, the mother asked the court to declare the father in contempt, alleging that he and the child had never come back from the August trip to Poland. The judge ordered the father arrested and confined in the county jail for violating the court’s August orders.

The Court of Appeal reversed this ruling. The outcome of this case is very useful and illustrative of all of the elements involved in a contempt case. The type of contempt facing this father was something called indirect criminal contempt. Criminal contempt means that the court is seeking to punish a party for flouting the court’s authority. Florida has a rule that specifically covers indirect criminal contempt. Since punishments can involve the loss of a party’s freedom (via incarceration), constitutional due process requires strict compliance with this rule.

This meant the court was required to issue an “order to show cause.” This is an opportunity for the party allegedly in contempt to appear before the judge and explain why his action or inaction does not amount to contempt of court. In Bronislaw’s case, there was no order to show cause. Additionally, the father and his attorney were never placed on notice that the father was potentially facing criminal penalties. Furthermore, the court gave the father’s attorney less than four hours of notice of its hearing, which was not nearly enough notice. (Previous rulings had said that notice periods as long as two working days were still too short.)

Sometimes, family law disputes can be particularly difficult, especially if one side is not following the court’s orders. Contempt of court proceedings can be the result in situations like that. Whether you are asking a judge to find your ex-spouse in contempt or opposing a contempt order, you need knowledgeable Florida counsel familiar with the law and the process. Skilled Miami child custody attorney Sara Saba has been providing helpful advice and effective advocacy to her clients for more than 13 years. Our team is dedicated to meeting your family law needs. Contact us online or by calling (305) 450-8009 to schedule your consultation. Hablamos Español.

More blog posts:

What the Law Does (and Does Not) Allow Courts to Do in Florida Child Custody and Timesharing Disputes, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 17, 2018

My Ex Wants to Move Far Away from Florida with Our Child. What Can I Do?, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 27, 2018