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Contempt Of Court In Family Law Matters

In some cases, family law disputes can become very heated and emotionally charged events when it becomes time to go to court to work out issues of custody, child support, alimony, or other terms of marital dissolution. Sometimes, one partner becomes willfully difficult to deal with by avoiding discussions or even skipping out on court-ordered requirements of the case.

When someone is violating a court order in a family law matter that impacts your rights, you may need to take legal action to enforce the order. A contempt of court proceeding is sometimes needed to get a person’s attention focused on following all orders of the family law judge as required.

Types Of Contempt Of Court

Contempt of court is defined as willful disobedience or interference with court proceedings. There can be direct contempt, where a party is in the personal presence of the judge in court and shows extreme disrespect or refusal to follow the court’s directions. On the other hand, there is indirect contempt, which is disrespect toward or outright avoidance of one’s duties under valid court orders outside of the courtroom. An example of indirect contempt is in a family law case where the judge has ordered a custody arrangement that one party continues to disregard or has ordered one person to make payments to the other, and they are not complying with the orders.

Civil Contempt

The most common type of contempt in family law cases, civil contempt, typically involves getting one party to the case to follow the court’s directions and do what they’ve been ordered to do. Some consequences of civil contempt can include additional fines and costs that the disobedient person must pay or attorney’s fees that the party must pay if they’ve taken action that requires the attorney to make court appearances or do additional work. In some cases, a judge might rule that certain evidence will be excluded or limited as a punishment against a person who has shown contempt of court orders. As a rare final option, a court may order a conditional jail sentence, where the person is locked up until they agree to comply with the court’s requirements.

Criminal Contempt

The more serious impact of criminal contempt usually arises in cases where someone has willfully violated orders and refused to change their behavior, and these actions cannot be made right by court action short of a contempt finding. Criminal contempt actions cannot be made up for with other alternatives that the court might order, so the focus is often on punishing the wrongdoer. Jail sentences can be set, ranging up to 93 days, and fines of up to $7,500 can be imposed on the party who has broken the rules. The person in contempt can also be made to pay damages to make up for the harm caused and attorney’s fees or other costs incurred as a result of the misbehavior.

Bringing Contempt To The Court’s Attention

If you are involved in a frustrating family law matter where the other person is failing to follow court orders, the first step should always be to communicate with the person who you believe has not lived up to their obligations. Review the court’s orders in detail and write a letter to the other person explaining your view of the situation and why you believe they are failing to comply with the court’s orders.

If the refusal involves a lack of payment of child support or other amounts due, document the missed payments and any excuses or reasons the other person gives. Unpaid child support obligations can lead to either civil or criminal contempt findings, depending on the circumstances of the matter and the length of time the problem has gone on.

When you’ve done your best to correct the situation by agreement and communication between you and the other person and no positive results have come from your efforts, you may need to bring proof of your efforts to court to get a ruling from the judge.

Get Capable Legal Assistance

Contempt of court can be a serious matter that requires a hearing in front of the judge and the filing of appropriate documents and evidence to make your case. The experienced family law attorneys at The Law Offices of Ravi R. Gurumurthy, PLC know how to bring your case to the judge to get the best possible result. Call today at 231-577-1580 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and get answers for your case.


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