How do you know when it’s time to pursue contempt?

How do you know when to pursue contempt? We’ve been talking about contempt – what it is, how to prepare for it, and how you might defend against it. But how do you know when it’s worth it to take legal action?

Understanding the cost of pursuing contempt.

Any time court intervention is required, it can be expensive. Whether it’s attorney’s fees, your time, or the emotional toll, legal conflicts can be a drain on your resources. So how do you know when to pursue contempt and ask the Court to enforce your order?

When it comes to child support, you can take action any time after a payment is more than thirty days late by contacting the District Attorney’s office. The District Attorney will seek enforcement of a child support order at no cost to you. 

If you have cause to delay- maybe you’re hoping the other party will catch up and you can avoid additional conflict. Or maybe you’re just busy with life and not prepared to take on the phone calls and paperwork required. That’s okay too. Child support payments are not subject to the statute of limitations. Once they are accrued under a court order, they can always be enforced. In this case, the impact of the missed payments on your finances, the nature of the relationship between you and the other party, and your level of time and energy to pursue the matter will dictate how and when you proceed. 

Protecting your right to enforce an order.

Other payments need to be sought within a certain time frame or you risk losing the ability to enforce your court order. The statute of limitations applies to a decree of divorce just as it does for any other debt. Failure to timely enforce your order could result in essentially forfeiting the monies owed to you. You’ll want to consult with an attorney to understand exactly how long you have to take action before you risk not being able to enforce the order and collect the monies owed to you. In this case, your own ability to pay for an attorney, weighed against the amount of money you stand to actually collect, may also factor into your decision as to when you should move forward. It’s an issue of return on investment. You wouldn’t spend $5,000 on an attorney to collect a $1,200 debt. 

Contempt is tricky when it comes to custody.

How do you know when to pursue contempt if the other party has violated a custody order? Child custody issues can be more nuanced. There is a balance between immediately taking action over a single occurrence and waiting too long. Immediately reacting without making a good faith effort to resolve the issue can serve to increase conflict and ultimately move parties even further away from a good co-parenting relationship. This is a situation where it’s best to try to resolve the issue with the other party on the first occurrence before things get out of hand. If you’re unable to resolve the issue yourself, it’s possible that involvement by an attorney could encourage the other party to participate in a resolution without seeking court intervention. 

If you have questions about your rights, you should contact a Nevada licensed attorney. 


Gloria Petroni is a licensed Nevada Attorney with over 40 years of experience. She is a family law specialist and practices in the areas of family law, probate and estate planning. This article is meant to be informative. It is not a substitute for legal advice. Every case is different. If you have questions about your case, you should contact a Nevada licensed attorney. We would love to hear from you. 


At Petroni Law Group, our goal is to provide each and every client with an unobstructed view of all aspects of a case by aiding in informed decision-making and clear understanding of possible outcomes.

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