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Enforcing Grandparent Visitation with Contempt of Court

In Utah, when grandparents have received an order of visitation from the court, they have the right to enforce their order, just like a parent.  If grandparents experience one or more occasions where they are denied their visitation, Utah law provides them with a remedy known as  contempt of court (commonly called “filing or file for contempt charges”.

Enforcing Grandparent Visitation with Contempt of Court

Before you file for contempt of court, you must make sure that you understand your order, and what it means under Utah law.  You should also talk to a lawyer in Utah to make sure you are doing this right. Common areas of misunderstandings are:

  • Transportation: who is supposed to pick up the child and who is supposed to drop the child off?  Or are you supposed to meet at a neutral place somewhere in the middle?
  • Regular time vs. holiday or vacation time – which controls?
  • Missed time – under what circumstances do you get make up time?  How soon after do you get make-up time?
  • What happens if the child is ill?  Does the visitation still occur?  If not, is it rescheduled?

Assuming that you are NOT under any misunderstanding about your order, and the other party simply won’t obey the court’s orders, you have rights, and the parent who refused visits is subject to penalties.  Pursuant to the code if a court finds any person has denied or interfered with visitation, the court MUST award court costs and reasonable attorney fees to the party who was wronged.

Sometimes, when people do not want to comply with a court’s order, they file a motion to change the order, hoping that if they win, then they won’t get in trouble for what they did while their motion was pending.  Unless the denial of visitation was necessary (in the eyes of the court, not the parent) to protect the child, this idea is wrong.    The law says that the court has jurisdiction to make a finding of contempt for a failure to comply with, or an interference with, a parenting time or visitation order or decree and to impose the penalties set forth in the Code in all cases in which the failure or interference is at issue even if the parenting time or visitation order or decree no longer is in effect.

Utah Temporary Restraining Orders in Divorce

In Utah, when a divorce case is filed, it is common for the court to put on a temporary restraining order.  Sometimes, the order is only put on if a party asks for it, and the order is one-sided (the party that asks for it gets the order agains the other party only).  This is currently the case in Franklin County.  In other counties, sometimes the domestic court’s local rules state that the temporary restraining order goes on as soon as the case is filed, against both parties.

It is important to understand the nature and limitations of these orders.  They are not domestic violence orders, although they usually instruct the parties not to harass each other.  They do not have any provisions that will require a party to give up their guns (unlike a civil protection order / domestic violence protection order).  There is no allegation of wrong doing necessary to get these orders.  These orders are simply put on to protect the status quo during the divorce, so that the parties remain relatively peaceful while they wait their turn for the court to end their marriage, divide their property and debts, and make orders regarding support and children.

Among other things, temporary restraining orders usually restrain the parties from taking funds out of any of their assets except for checking accounts.  This prohibits the parties from dipping into retirement, savings or anything else to finance their divorce.  This can seriously disadvantage the party who did not plan for the divorce.  One party has all their ducks in a row and the other is unable to afford their attorney.

There are very few good solutions for this problem.  An attorney can file a motion for attorney fees, but the attorney fees are not awarded often enough to address the problem or equalize the parties’ financial power, and when the fees are awarded, the awards are often minimal compared to the need.

When people think divorce is coming, they are often afraid to financially prepare themselves for the divorce, because they are afraid that taking the money will hasten the divorce itself.  That may or may not be true.  Each client is in the best position to judge their own spouse’s potential reaction.  However, when a client believes divorce is coming, they need to understand that a temporary restraining order is coming as well, and it may take a while to get to agreement, if agreement can be reached.  By failing to prepare for divorce, and for the temporary restraining order that will soon be limiting their access to their assets, people facing divorce are taking a risk of being the disadvantaged party throughout the entire divorce.

Free Initial Consultation with a Family Lawyer

When you need help from a Utah Lawyer, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506