Judicial Enforcement

Civil Judicial Enforcement is an enforcement technique intended to be coercive and motivational. The stated goal is not imposition of a jail sentence, but rather increased support payments. Unlike Criminal Judicial Enforcement, Civil Judicial Enforcement is not immediately intended to result in incarceration.

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What is Contempt?

  • Contempt for failure to pay child or spousal support is defined by Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 2705.031.  The maximum penalties associated with a finding of Contempt are defined by ORC Section 2705.05.  These penalties are as follows:  1st Contempt finding, 30 days jail and $250.00 fine; 2nd Contempt finding, 60 days jail and $500.00 fine; 3rd Contempt finding, 90 days jail and $1000.00 fine.

    An Obligor (Payor) is legally entitled to apply for court-appointed counsel at the initial Contempt hearing.  Even if represented by a court-appointed attorney during the Contempt hearing(s), the Obligor will no longer be entitled to such counsel after being found in or admitting Contempt.

What happens during a Contempt Hearing?

  • The Court will determine whether the Obligor is in contempt for failure to pay support as ordered. This hearing is generally presided over by a Magistrate.

  • The Obligor is legally entitled to apply for court-appointed counsel for the initial Contempt hearing, as a finding of Contempt may subject the Obligor to incarceration at a subsequent hearing. 

  • If the Obligor elects to apply for counsel, the hearing will be continued to enable the Obligor to both apply, and if he/she qualifies, have an attorney appointed to represent him/her. 

  • If the Obligor fails to appear for the initial Contempt hearing and is later arrested as a result of his/her failure to appear, the Court may deem the right to apply for counsel forfeited due to the failure to appear at the initial hearing.

Once the Contempt hearing is conducted, one of three things may occur:

  • The Obligor may be found in or admit Contempt.  If so, the Obligor will be sentenced to a maximum of 30 days in jail, suspended on the condition the Obligor improves compliance with the order and meets any purge conditions established by the Court.  The matter is then generally set for a Purge hearing.

  • The Court may continue the matter for a subsequent Contempt hearing, without a finding of Contempt.

  • The Contempt motion may be dismissed by the court for reasons not limited to:  the Obligor’s compliance, documented medical inability to work, or the Obligor’s qualification for social security disability benefits.

What happens at a Purge Hearing?

  • The Purge hearing is held a few months following the Contempt finding and is generally presided over by a Magistrate. At the Purge hearing, the Court will determine if the Obligor has met the conditions ordered by the Court to purge (remove) the jail sentence.

One of three things is likely to occur at the Purge hearing:

  • If the court determines the Obligor has satisfied the conditions of purge, the entire sentence may be purged and the matter dismissed.

  • The court may determine the Obligor has been partially compliant, purge a portion of the sentence, and set the matter set for a subsequent Purge hearing.

  • The Court may find that the Obligor has not purged the sentence and will set an Imposition of Sentence hearing in front of a Judge, at which time the jail sentence may be imposed. 

    Once the Imposition of Sentence hearing is set, the jail sentence is no longer available to be purged.  Even if the motion is later dismissed, the jail sentence remains suspended, unless served.  The Purge hearing is the only type of hearing in which the jail sentence is eligible for purge (removal).

What happens at Imposition of Sentence and Motion to Impose Sentence Hearings?

  • The Imposition of Sentence and Motion to Impose Sentence hearings are presided over by a Judge with the legal authority to impose the suspended jail sentence. An Imposition of Sentence hearing is scheduled via a Purge Entry, in which the Obligor failed to purge the suspended jail sentence.  A Motion to Impose Sentence hearing is scheduled via written motion through which the CSEA asks the court to impose a previously suspended jail sentence.

    These hearings can progress in much the same way as Contempt hearings (they may be continued and dismissed due to compliance) with one exception, the Court can immediately order the Obligor to serve the suspended jail sentence at these hearings. 

    The Court may choose to impose some, but not all, of the suspended jail sentence.  In such instances, a portion of the original sentence will remain suspended.  If the CSEA later decides on additional civil enforcement action, a new Motion to Impose Sentence may be filed to impose the remainder of the suspended sentence. If the Court opts to impose the entire sentence, and the CSEA subsequently chooses to file an additional civil enforcement action, a new Contempt motion will be filed.