Violating Court Orders…and you thought YOUR attorney’s fees were expensive!

It seems that it would be common sense to most litigants that violating a court order will have negative consequences. That being said, for whatever reason, there are still many, many litigants that purposefully or inadvertently violate court orders in their respective family law cases. What the litigants may not realize is that there may be a high financial cost associated with that.

There is a specific statute under Illinois law that governs the award of attorney’s fees when a court has a proceeding “for the enforcement of an order or judgment, when the court finds that the (litigant’s) failure to comply with the order or judgment was without compelling cause or justification.” This statute is Section 750 ILCS 5/508(b) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, and it further provides that in such situations “the court shall order the party against whom the proceeding is brought to pay promptly the costs and reasonable attorney’s fees of the prevailing party.” There are two key words to be wary of here: “shall” and “promptly”.

First, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act says the Court “shall order” appears to leave the Judge no discretion in the matter. Thus, if the Court finds a violation of an order or judgment was “without compelling cause or justification”, the violating litigant can be pretty certain that they will be forced to pay some of the other litigant’s attorney’s fees. These fees potentially are in addition to fees they may already be paying, such as: their own attorney’s fees, a Guardian Ad Litem or Child Representative Fees, or even a 604(b) Custody Evaluator’s fees. That can be very, very expensive.

The second keyword is the word “promptly”. The statute provides that the fees are to be paid promptly. If the litigant that violated the order does not pay the fees within the time afforded by the Judge in an order, there is the possibility of an additional contempt petition being brought against them. It should also be noted that the statute does not make reference at all to the order-violating litigant’s ability to pay the fees. That means they will likely need to find a way to come up with the funds, regardless of their current financial situation.

The lesson to take away here is that you should not, under any circumstances, ever violate a court order. Not only is it against the law, it can be very expensive! If there is a court order in place that you feel you are not able to abide by or that is unfavorable to you, or that needs to be amended, talk to one of our attorney’s about your options. We offer consultations and would be happy to discuss the matter with you and see if there is something that we can do to assist you.

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