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Is It Your Responsibility If Your Current Spouse Makes Life Difficult for Your Ex?


Our culture seems to enjoy a good rivalry between two people who have been married to the same person.  From the mom versus stepmom feuds on the daytime talk shows of 1990s television to the Daddy’s Home movies of the past decade, the public seems to find entertainment value in seeing a parent and a stepparent battle it out.  In real life, though, stepparent drama is no fun; it is costly and exhausting.  If you and your ex-spouse had a contentious divorce, things are unlikely to calm down when you marry your new partner.  If you and your ex have children together, then your ex and your current spouse are going to have to find a way to keep the peace.  A South Florida child custody lawyer can help you resolve co-parenting disputes that arise when a stepparent enters the picture.

The Court Cannot Hold You in Contempt for Your Spouse’s Action

Elizabeth and Martin did not end their 11-year marriage on good terms; in fact, they had so much difficulty communicating that their parenting plan ordered them to use the co-parenting app Our Family Wizard to communicate with each other about their children.  They split their parenting time 50/50, so the parenting plan and child support order contained detailed instructions about extra-curricular activities and health insurance responsibilities for the children.

When Elizabeth, her new husband took an active parental role.  He added the children to his employer-provided health insurance policy and often attended their school events.  He did not, however, have a good relationship with Martin and sometimes spoke negatively about him in the children’s presence.

At Martin’s request, the court threatened to hold Elizabeth in contempt unless she would fulfill the following conditions, some of which were listed in the parenting plan:

  • Renew the subscription to Our Family Wizard
  • Provide Martin with copies of the children’s new health insurance cards
  • Not allow her husband to speak ill of Martin in the children’s presence, and not allow him to attend events that Martin attended

When Elizabeth filed an appeal, the appeals court purged the contempt.  It accepted Elizabeth’s argument that the contempt order was unenforceable.  An adult cannot be held legally responsible for another adult’s behavior in the way the contempt order specified.  The order was also unnecessarily vague; it did not specify what Elizabeth was supposed to do to stop her husband from having contact with Martin.

Contempt of court is a civil or criminal consequence of disobeying a court order.  In Elizabeth’s case, it was civil contempt.  Criminal contempt in family law cases is usually for more serious violations, like willfully avoiding payment of child support.

Reach Out to Us Today for Help

If your ex-spouse threatens to hold you in contempt of court for not following unrealistic instructions in your parenting plan, contact a Boca Raton child custody lawyer.  Contact Schwartz | White for help with your case.



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