How to file a contempt of court

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Bickering between spouses does not always end after a divorce is finalized. If custody or support matters are not resolved to the liking of one party, he or she may be resistant to comply. If this occurs, you may file a motion with the court asking that your spouse be held in contempt. Contempt is a determination by a judge that a party has willfully failed to follow a court order, which then allows the court to impose penalties. Although many spouses benefit from the assistance of a legal document provider or attorney throughout the process, some states offer standard forms and instructions to provide you with all of the tools necessary to request that the court find your spouse in contempt.

Step 1

Obtain the contempt paperwork from the court clerk or type the motion yourself. Some states offer fill-in-the-blank motions that are accompanied by instructions. You will need to include information about your case such as your case number, the name of the court, your name and your spouse’s name.

Step 2

Briefly explain in the document what the original order requires your spouse to do. Examples would be if your spouse was required to make weekly child support or alimony payments to you, or if you spouse was required to drop off your children every Sunday night at 6 p.m. under a custody arrangement.

Step 3

Explain in the document how your spouse willfully violated the order. If your spouse failed to make payments, note the date of the last payment and how much he currently owes. If your spouse has been routinely late in dropping off your children, note the dates and times of the violations.

Step 4

Include the relief you request from the court. Examples would be wage withholding from your spouse’s employer, a civil fine or incarceration to pressure your ex to pay support. If your custody time has been reduced due to his noncompliance with the order, in some cases you may request make-up time.

Step 5

Obtain and complete any accompanying paperwork. Some states require you to fill out a Summary Sheet for the court as well as a Subpoena for Hearing on Motion for Contempt, which simply “commands” your spouse to participate.

Step 6

File the motion and accompanying documents with the court. After filing, provide a copy of the paperwork to your spouse. Many states require that the motion be hand delivered by a Sheriff or professional process server.

Step 7

Attend the hearing. The court will schedule a date for you to provide evidence for the claims made in your motion in front of the judge. Your spouse will also have an opportunity to defend his noncompliance. A judge will then enter a finding denying your request or holding your spouse in contempt and granting you the appropriate relief.

‘Contempt of court’ happens when someone risks unfairly influencing a court case. It may stop somebody from getting a fair trial and can affect a trial’s outcome.

Contempt of court includes:

  • disobeying or ignoring a court order
  • taking photos or shouting out in court
  • refusing to answer the court’s questions if you’re called as a witness
  • publicly commenting on a court case, for example on social media or online news articles

If you’re found to be in contempt of court, you could go to prison for up to 2 years, get a fine, or both.

Publicly commenting on a court case

You might be in contempt of court if you speak publicly or post on social media.

For example, you should not:

  • say whether you think a person is guilty or innocent
  • refer to someone’s previous convictions
  • name someone the judge has allowed to be anonymous, even if you did not know this
  • name victims, witnesses and offenders under 18
  • name sex crime victims
  • share any evidence or facts about a case that the judge has said cannot be made public

Report contempt of court

If you’ve seen something that you think risks the fairness of a future or ongoing case, you can either:

If you’re reporting something you’ve seen online, include screenshots of the posts if you have them.

Contempt of court is defined as being any willful disobedience to, or disregard of, a court order or any misconduct in the presence of a court. 3 min read

Contempt of court is defined as being any willful disobedience to, or disregard of, a court order or any misconduct in the presence of a court. It can also be in reference to an action that interferes with a judge’s ability to administer justice or that insults the dignity of the court. Being convicted for contempt of court is punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. There are both civil and criminal contempt; the distinction is often unclear.

Contempt of Court – Civil or Criminal

A judge who feels someone is improperly challenging or ignoring the court’s authority has the power to declare the defiant person (called the contemnor) in contempt of court. There are two types of contempt: criminal and civil.

Criminal contempt occurs when the contemnor actually interferes with the ability of the court to function properly. For example, by yelling at the judge. This is also called direct contempt because it occurs directly in front of the judge. A criminal contemnor may be fined, jailed, or both as punishment for his act.

Civil contempt occurs when the contemnor willfully disobeys a court order. This is also called indirect contempt because it occurs outside the judge’s immediate realm, and evidence must be presented to the judge to prove the contempt. A civil contemnor, too, may be fined, jailed, or both. The fine or jailing is meant to coerce the contemnor into obeying the court, not to punish him, and the contemnor will be released from jail just as soon as he complies with the court order. In family law, civil contempt is one way a court enforces alimony, child support, custody, and visitation orders which have been violated.

However, many courts have realized that, at least regarding various procedural matters such as the appointment of counsel, the distinction between civil and criminal contempt is often blurred and uncertain.

A Willful Disregard or Disobedience of a Public Authority

By the Constitution of the United States, each house of Congress may determine the rules of its proceeding’s, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member. The same provision is substantially contained in the constitutions of the several states.

The power to make rules carries that of enforcing them, and to attach persons who violate them and punish them for contempt. This power of punishing for contempt is confined to punishment during the session of the legislature and cannot extend beyond it, and it seems this power cannot be exerted beyond imprisonment.

Courts of justice have an inherent power to punish all persons for contempt of their rules and orders, for disobedience of their process, and for disturbing them in their proceedings.

In some states, as in Pennsylvania, the power to punish for contempt is restricted to offenses committed by the officers of the court, or in its presence, or in disobedience of its mandates, orders, or rules. However, no one is guilty of contempt for any publication made or act done out of court which is not in violation of such lawful rules or orders or disobedience of its process. Similar provisions limiting the power of the courts of the United States to punish for contempt are incorporated in 28 U.S.C.

When a person is in prison for contempt, it has been decided in New York that he cannot be discharged by another judge when brought before him on a habeas corpus. Furthermore, it belongs exclusively to the court offended to judge of contempt and what amounts to them; and no other court or judge can, or ought to undertake in a collateral way, to question or review an adjudication of a contempt made by another competent jurisdiction. The same applies in England and America.

We’ve all seen dramatic scenes in movies or television shows where a judge yells, “You’re in contempt!” and a participant in a court proceeding is escorted out of the courtroom, presumably to a jail cell to contemplate their transgressions. But, particularly in the context of family law, what does it mean to be held in contempt of court in family law? What actions can lead to a contempt charge? In family law, how is contempt of court dealt with?

Before we can answer that question, we must first learn the basics of contempt of court. Contempt of Court is a method of ensuring that court procedures or orders are followed. Contempt can be civil or criminal, and it can be direct or constructive, or indirect. Let’s take a closer look at what these terms mean.

Contempt of Court: Civil vs. Criminal

Civil contempt is a legal term for forcing someone to comply with a court order, usually for the benefit of the other party in the case. Parenting time is a common example. If a court has ordered parents to follow a specific parenting time schedule and one parent consistently refuses to make the child available for the other parent’s time, that parent may be held in civil contempt. A party who has been wronged may file a motion to hold the other party in contempt. The court may hold a party in contempt on its own initiative, which is less common.

Criminal contempt of court, on the other hand, is a serious offense. Individuals charged with criminal contempt have procedural safeguards, including the right to a jury trial with testimony from witnesses and the defendant, as with all criminal charges. Criminal contempt is used to punish a defendant who has disobeyed a court’s authority, such as by making repeated outbursts during a hearing.

Civil and criminal contempt can be either direct or indirect. When order must be maintained or restored during a court proceeding, direct contempt is used. Someone might be found in direct contempt in the case of repeated outbursts so that the proceeding can continue without interruption. Criminal contempt is usually depicted in dramatic “contempt of court” scenes on TV or in movies. Outside the presence of the court, indirect (constructive) contempt occurs, such as the repeated violation of the parenting time order described above.

In practice, most (though not all) contempt findings in family law are constructive: they result from a parent’s failure to pay child support on time or comply with parenting time orders. However, just because these contempt findings aren’t dramatic doesn’t mean they don’t have a significant impact on the parties involved.

What Are the Consequences of Contempt of Court in Family Law?

If a court does not require litigants to follow its orders, the court gives up its authority. And if the parties in a divorce or custody case know they can get away with breaking court orders they don’t like, they’ll have little incentive to follow those orders.

The majority of contempt cases in family court involve nonpayment of child support or failure to follow parenting time orders. What this means is that a judge can order a party found in contempt of court to not only serve time in jail, but also to pay the other side’s costs and attorney’s fees in pursuing the contempt finding.

Wage garnishment, seizure of income tax returns, and suspension of driver and professional licenses are all options for enforcing a family court order for support. If a parent denies or interferes with parenting time, the court’s orders can range from compensatory parenting time to paying a bond to transferring custody to the other parent.

You do not have to accept your ex-spouse or co-failure parent’s to follow the court’s orders, especially if the violation is deliberate and ongoing. Similarly, if your ex threatens to hold you in contempt of court for actions that were beyond your control, you must act to avoid an unjust court order.

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Penalty for contempt of court in Georgia could be serious. Penalty for contempt of court in Georgia may result in various consequences, including jail time.

What is contempt of court in Georgia?

Contempt of court in Georgia means a willful or intentional violation of a court order, such as a divorce decree.

For example, if the divorce decree ordered a former spouse to pay $700 per month in alimony and that former spouse fails to do so intentionally, that spouse may be in contempt.

Also, acting against the spirit and intent of a court order may be contempt.

For example, if a spouse is ordered to pay alimony in the amount of $700 per month and that paying spouse (out of spite) pays the alimony in pennies, this may be a violation of the spirit and intent of the court’s order regarding alimony.

Filing a motion for contempt is one common way to enforce a court order.

How to file motion for contempt

You would file contempt of court in Georgia to begin the contempt proceeding. Generally, you would file in the same court where the court order at issue was rendered.

For example, if the final judgment and decree of divorce was entered in Cobb County Superior Court, then you would file the contempt action with Cobb County Superior Court. However, there are exceptions to this general rule regarding where to file contempt actions.

Also, a contempt proceeding is not a new civil action. Rather, it is a part of the primary action, such as a divorce case. That is, an action for contempt is a motion in nature.

How to prove contempt

Proving contempt of court in Georgia involves presenting evidence to show that the other party willfully violated the court order.

For example, if the custodial parent intentionally withholds visitation from the non-custodial parent, the non-custodial parent could file a motion for contempt against the custodial parent. At the contempt hearing, the non-custodial parent would present evidence that shows: (1) the custodial parent withheld visitation; and (2) the custodial parent’s withholding visitation was willful.

Penalty for Contempt of Court in Georgia #1

There are mainly two types of contempt: (1) criminal contempt; and (2) civil contempt.

The court could punish criminal contempt “by fines not exceeding $1,000.00, by imprisonment not exceeding 20 days, or both.” O.C.G.A. § 15-6-8.

Penalty for Contempt of Court in Georgia #2

For civil contempt, the court could order indefinite imprisonment until the contemnor purges himself or herself of the contempt.

For example, let’s say that the mother was ordered to pay child support to the father pursuant to her divorce decree. If the court finds that the mother willfully violated the court order regarding child support, the court could order that the mother be jailed until the mother pays the child support arrearage.

In other words, if the mother has the money but refuses to pay the child support intentionally, the mother might be jailed until she purges herself of the contempt. Basically, the mother would hold the keys to be released from jail.

Attorney’s Fees and Expenses

If you are found in contempt of court in Georgia, the court might order you to pay for the other party’s attorney’s fees and expenses.

If there is a motion for contempt against you, chat with an Atlanta Divorce Lawyer about your options.

How to file a contempt of court How to file a contempt of court How to file a contempt of court How to file a contempt of court

When Is it Appropriate to File Contempt Proceedings in California Family Court?

How to file a contempt of court

If you recently completed divorce proceedings in California, or if you and your co-parent have recently completed a child custody determination, reaching these milestones does not necessarily mean that your time in the family court system is entirely complete. You may need to revisit your family court order for many reasons. For example, some individuals need to file petitions for modifications to their family court orders due to recent major life events. It is also possible that you may need to return to court to file contempt proceedings against your ex-spouse or co-parent due to their behavior.

What Is Contempt of Court?

Contempt of court refers to an individual’s willful violation of a lawful family court order. To qualify for contempt of court proceedings, the individual’s violation must be willful, intentional, and have a material effect on those beholden to the family court order in question. Some commonly cited examples of behavior that can lead to contempt proceedings in the California family court system include:

  • Preventing visitation. A parent bound by a visitation order must abide by the terms of the order, even if they disagree with them for personal reasons. A parent who prevents their child’s other parent from exercising their rights to visitation can face contempt of court and potentially lose some of their custody rights depending on the severity of their behavior.
  • Interference with communication. Unless a family court order forbids contact between a parent and their child, a custodial parent cannot interfere with their child’s ability to communicate with their other parent.
  • Denying visitation for nonpayment of child support. When a noncustodial parent must pay child support to a custodial parent and fails to make payments on time or falls behind in their child support payments, they cannot withhold visitation rights as “punishment” for their failure to pay. If a parent fails to pay child support as required, the other parent must go through the appropriate channels to rectify the situation. Taking punitive measures into their own hands could lead to them incurring contempt of court charges.
  • Refusal to pay child support. Noncustodial parents required to pay child support must abide by the terms of their support orders to the letter; otherwise, the custodial parent could file contempt proceedings against them.
  • Refusal to pay court-ordered spousal support. Similar to refusal to pay child support, a divorced spouse required to pay alimony to their ex-spouse could also face contempt proceedings.
  • Repeated failure to make child support or alimony payments on time. The California family court system is generally open to working with paying parents who struggle to meet their child support obligations. Still, the repeated failure of a paying parent to make required payments in full and on time can lead to contempt proceedings.

If you have experienced any of these issues or if you believe you could be subject to contempt proceedings, it is essential to understand the potential penalties for contempt of court and how to go about filing contempt proceedings with your local California family court.

How to file a contempt of court

Potential Penalties for Contempt of Court in California

The possible penalties for contempt of court in California can include fines, seizure of assets, and even imprisonment, depending on the severity of the behavior in question. At the lowest level, contempt of court proceedings can be the ideal way to compel a noncompliant parent into meeting their support obligations appropriately or a nonpaying ex-spouse into paying alimony on time.

When bad behavior is more severe, the court may take more drastic measures to prevent similar behavior in the future. For example, if a parent repeatedly fails to make support payments on time or otherwise fails in their financial obligations to a former spouse or their child under a custody agreement, the court may start garnishing their wages to ensure they meet their support or alimony obligations. Wage garnishment means that a portion of each noncompliant parent’s paychecks is automatically remitted to the recipient. It’s also possible for the court to seize bank accounts and other assets to rectify noncompliant behavior.

When a parent’s contempt case involves more serious issues, the parent may go to prison. For example, attempting to kidnap a child to prevent the other parent from exercising their custody or visitation rights can easily lead to incarceration. Likewise, if an individual is bound by a family court order about domestic violence and violates a “no contact” provision, they will likely face a jail sentence, fines, and other penalties. When a custodial parent is found guilty of contempt of court due to interference with their child’s other parent’s ability to exercise their custody rights, the court may respond by adjusting the parents’ custody terms and awarding more custody to the other parent or imposing other restrictions on the parent in violation.

Ultimately, it is never worth risking custody rights in a contempt of court case. However, if you must abide by the terms of a family court order but cannot do so, or if you believe the terms are unfair, it’s vital to go through the proper channels to address the situation instead of risking facing contempt of court.

Find Legal Counsel for Contempt of Court

If you believe you have grounds to file contempt proceedings against a former spouse or co-parent, or if you have been notified that your co-parent or ex-spouse has initiated contempt proceedings against you, you have the right to legal counsel as you approach the situation. The attorneys at Bickford Blado & Botros can provide comprehensive legal counsel to anyone facing either side of a contempt case in California family court.

These are often delicate situations that require swift and effective legal action. If the other party has engaged in any willful violation of a lawful family court order, you have the right to hold them accountable. If you have been notified of the other party filing contempt proceedings against you unjustly, you have the right to defend yourself and explain your side of the issue in a court hearing. We can provide the legal guidance you need on either side of a contempt case. If you are ready to discuss your legal options with an experienced and compassionate California family law attorney, contact Bickford Blado & Botros today to schedule a consultation with our team.

Feel Free to Contact Our Office with Any Questions

How do I file a Complaint for Contempt case?

First you must fill out the right forms. You can:

  • Pick up the forms you need at any Probate and Family Court;
  • Download the forms from the Probate and Family Court website; or
  • If you are a parent, and all you want is a child support order, you may be able to use our Do-It-Yourself online interactive forms assembly interview.

When you file a Complaint for Contempt, you are the “plaintiff”, and the other parent is the “defendant.”

Follow these steps

  1. File the Complaint for Contempt in the same Probate and Family Court that issued the child support order. Find the right Probate and Family Court.
  2. Get the Contempt Summons. A court clerk gives you a Contempt Summons. A Contempt Summons is a court order that tells the defendant:
    • to come to court,
    • when to come to court,
    • the address of the court,
    • to bring a current Financial Statement,
    • to explain why he or she should not be held in contempt, and
    • if the court decides the defendant is in contempt, the court may send him or her to jail. See a sample contempt summons.

Serve the papers. Go to a deputy sheriff or constable and give them:

  • the original summons,
  • your court-approved Affidavit of Indigency, if you have one. The Affidavit of Indigency is for the sheriff. It tells the sheriff the state will pay for service,
  • a copy of the complaint,
  • the Request for a Financial Statement, and
  • the blank pink financial statement form the court gave you when you filed the complaint.

The deputy sheriff or constable will deliver the papers to the other parent. When the deputy sheriff gives the papers to the other parent, it is “service of process.”

After the sheriff or constable serves the papers, she or he fills out, signs, and dates the section called “Proof of Service”. Wait for the sheriff or constable to return the original summons to you. This is proof that the other parent got the documents telling her or him about the case.

  • Make a “return of service”. Make a copy of the signed original Contempt Summons and return the original to the court clerk. This is called making “return of service.” Bring the signed summons back to court as soon as you get it from the sheriff or constable.
  • Fill out a Financial Statement. The court may require you to file a Financial Statement. You must tell the truth about all your income and expenses. Bring your Financial Statement to the court hearing.
  • Go to court on the day scheduled for the hearing.
  • How much does it cost to file a Complaint for Contempt?

    There is no filing fee for the Complaint of Contempt.

    The Contempt Summons that you serve on the other parent costs $5.00.

    Deputy sheriffs charge $35.00 to $40.00 to serve the complaint and summons.

    What if I do not have money for the fees?

    If you get public assistance or if your income is very low, you may not have to pay the fees. You can fill out a court form called an Affidavit of Indigency. If the court approves the form, the state pays the fees.

    Form Number

    Form Type

    PDF File

    RTF File

    Family Law Forms

    • 12.920 Forms A – C
    • 12.921 Form
    • 12.922 Forms A – C
    • 12.923 Form
    • 12.924 Form
    • 12.927 Form
    • 12.928 Form
    • 12.930 Forms A – D
    • 12.931 Forms A & B
    • 12.932 Form
    • 12.961 Form
    • 12.970 Forms A – F
    • 12.975 Forms A-B
    • 12.981 Forms A1 – D2
    • 12.982 Forms A – G
    • 12.983 Forms A – G
    • 12.984 Form A – D
    • 12.985 Forms A – G
    • 12.994 Forms A – B
    • Additional Supporting Documents | 12.902 | Forms B – J
    • Answers to Dissolution | 12.903 Forms A – E
    • Attorney/Non-Lawyer Representation | 12.900 | Forms A – H
    • Cert for Service | 12.914 Form
    • Current Address | 12.915 Form
    • Dating Violence | 12.980 Forms N – P
    • Disestablish Paternity | 12.951 Forms A – B
    • Dispositions | 12.999 Form
    • Dissolution Final Judgments | 12.990 Forms A – C2
    • Dissolve/Modify Injunction | 12.940 Forms D – E
    • Domestic Violence | 12.980 Forms A – E
    • Enforcement | 12.960 Form
    • Guardian ad Litem | 12.942 Forms A – B
    • Income Deduction Order | 12.996 Forms A – C
    • Involving Relocation | 12.950 Forms A – J
    • Military service | 12.912 Forms A – B
    • Modification of Final Judgments | 12.993 Forms A – C
    • Motion to Deviate from Child Support Guidelines | 12.943 Form
    • Notices and Diligent Search | 12.913 Forms A – C
    • Parenting Plan | 12.995 Forms A – C
    • Petition for Dissolution of Marriage | 12.901 | Forms A – B3
    • Petition for Support Unconnected with Dissolution | 12.904 Forms A – B
    • Prevent Removal of Child(ren) | 12.941 Forms A – E
    • Repeat Violence | 12.980 Forms F, K, L
    • Sexual Violence | 12.980 Forms Q – S
    • Show Cause for Violations | 12.980 Forms W, X
    • Stalking | 12.980 Forms T, U, V
    • Subpoenas 12.911 Forms A – E
    • Summons and Memorandum | 12.910 Forms A – B
    • Supplemental (Modification) Petitions | 12.905 Forms A – C
    • Supporting Documents | 12.980 Forms G – J, M
    • Temporary Custodial Responsibility During Deployment / 12.948 Forms A-E
    • Temporary Support | 12.947 Forms A – D
    • Testimony and Attendance of Minor Child(ren) | 12.944Forms A – B
    • Writ (Child Support) | 12.962 Form

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    How to file a contempt of courtQuestion:

    My ex-wife has consistently been late on our home loan payments and I would like to file for contempt of court. What is the process for doing so?


    While I am not licensed to practice law in your state, I can give you some general guidance on this issue. The rest of my answer is based on my experience practicing law in Georgia as a licensed Georgia attorney.

    If the decree states that she was to maintain payments for the loan and she is consistently late on payments, then that certainly appears to be a violation of that decree and possible contempt of court.

    Normally when there is an issue of contempt, I advise clients to begin with a formal demands letter written by an attorney. This letter cites the specific provisions of the decree that are being violated and gives her a very limited period of time to cure the deficiency.

    If she fails to do so, then there is little option left but to file an action for contempt.

    Filing for contempt is similar to filing for divorce in a lot of ways. A new case is opened, a new petition is filed, and your ex-wife would need to be properly served. At court, you would show evidence that the contempt took place, show that the violation was willful, and ask the court to take specific actions such as require her to take certain measures with the loan, pay you for your attorney fees, and reimburse you for any financial injuries you suffered as a result of the contempt.

    To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including Georgia divorce lawyer Adam Sutton, contact Cordell & Cordell.


    Shawn Garrison

    Shawn Garrison is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell & Cordell UK. He has written countless pieces dealing with the unique child custody and divorce issues that men and fathers face. Through his work on,, and, Mr. Garrison has become an authority on the complexities of the legal experience and was a content creator for the YouTube series “Dad’s Divorce Live” and additional videos on both the Dad’s Divorce and Cordell & Cordell YouTube channels. Mr. Garrison has managed the sites of these customers, and fostered the creation of several of their features, including the Cordell & Cordell attorney and office pages, the Dad’s Divorce Newsletter, and the Cordell & Cordell newsletter.

    One comment on “ How Do You File A Motion Of Contempt? ”

    What if my ex abandons the property she got in the divorce? My situation is one in which she took financial responsibility, but the loan was in my name only. Judge ordered her to take financial responsibility, she did not refinance and she has not made a payment in over 2 years. Do I just keep making the payments to save my credit only to see when the house is paid off that she gets to keep it? She is renting the house, keeping the money, and laughing at me every time I make a payment. I cannot allow it to foreclose because I am in business for myself and I need the lines of credit that I have established over the last 18 years to stay in business.

    Created byВ FindLaw’s team of legal writers and editors | Last updated June 20, 2016

    Contempt of court refers to actions which either defy a court’s authority, cast disrespect on a court, or impede the ability of the court to perform its function.

    Contempt takes two forms: criminal contempt and civil contempt. Actions that one might normally associate with the phrase “contempt of court,” such as a party causing a serious disruption in the courtroom, yelling at the judge, or refusing to testify before a grand jury, would often constitute criminal contempt of court.

    Civil contempt of court most often happens when someone fails to adhere to an order from the court, with resulting injury to a private party’s rights. For example, failure to pay court ordered child support can lead to punishment for civil contempt. Typically, the aggrieved party, such as a parent who has not received court ordered child support payments, may file an action for civil contempt.

    Punishment for Civil Contempt of Court vs. Criminal Contempt of Court

    Unlike criminal contempt sentences, which aim to punish the act of contempt, civil contempt sanctions aim to either: (1) restore the rights of the party who was wronged by the failure to satisfy the court’s order; or (2) simply move an underlying proceeding along. Civil contempt sanctions typically end when the party in contempt complies with the court order, or when the underlying case is resolved.

    Like those charged with criminal contempt, the court may order incarceration of people held in civil contempt. However, unlike individuals charged with criminal contempt, people held in civil contempt are generally not given the same constitutional rights that are guaranteed to criminal contempt defendants.

    Those held in civil contempt generally must be given notice of the contempt sanctions and an opportunity to be heard, but usually are not guaranteed a jury trial. Also, their contempt does not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, while criminal contempt charges must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Finally, criminal contempt involves a specified sentence (jail and/or fine), while civil contempt sanctions can be more indefinite, lasting until either the underlying case is resolved or the party in contempt complies with the court order.

    Direct and Indirect Contempt

    Contempt of court may be “direct” or “indirect.” Direct contempt occurs in the presence of the court – during a court proceeding, for example. Indirect contempt occurs outside the presence of the court.

    Civil contempt often occurs indirectly – for example, when a party is ordered to turn over financial records within thirty days but refuses to do so. Indirect contempt is sometimes called constructive or consequential contempt.


    Civil contempt of court refers to behavior which disobeys the authority of a court in a civil proceeding. Civil contempt is distinct from criminal contempt of court. Most often, civil contempt of court involves failure to satisfy a court order. Generally, sanction for civil contempt end when the party in contempt complies with the court order, or the underlying case resolves. Civil contempt can result in punishment including jail time and/or a fine.

    A person showing contempt is one who views another person, entity, or situation with disdain or scorn, or who treats people with dishonor, or considers them disgraceful. Contempt of court involves an individual showing a lack of respect for the court, or for the rules and procedures of the court, or who defies the court’s authority. To explore this concept, consider the following contempt of court definition.

    Definition of Contempt of Court

    1. Open disrespect for the court, or willful disobedience of rules or orders of the court.


    1350-1400 Middle English

    1. Criminal Contempt: being rude or disrespectful to court proceedings, the judge, or attorneys in the proceedings, or causing some type of disturbance in the courtroom. This type of behavior usually garners a warning by the judge before contempt charges are made.
    2. Civil Contempt: willfully or purposely failing to obey an order of the court. This often involves refusal to pay child support, failing to abide by a child custody order, refusing to hand over property when ordered by the court, or failing to show up for a hearing in court.
    3. Direct Contempt: an action taken in the presence of the court, which is intended to cause embarrassment or show disrespect for the court. Direct contempt may include the refusal by a witness under oath to answer questions of the judge or an attorney, or shouting in the courtroom .
    4. Indirect Contempt: actions taken away from the court, which are intended to mock, degrade, or obstruct the court or court proceedings. Attempting to bribe an attorney or witness, or attempting to sway members of the jury are considered indirect acts of indirect contempt. In addition, publishing or handing out flyers intended to cause disrespect for the court may be considered an act of indirect contempt.

    Because judges have discretion over when an individual should be charged with contempt, such actions as filing large numbers of frivolous lawsuits may result in charges of contempt, as it hinders the court’s ability to fairly and efficiently administer justice to all in its jurisdiction.

    Contempt of Court Penalties

    When a court cites someone for contempt, the punishment could range from a fine to jail time. Because the judge has complete discretion in controlling the courtroom, and in enforcing orders of the court, contempt of court citations cannot generally be appealed. While fines imposed for contempt of court go to the court, the judge may also order the individual to pay the opposing party’s attorney’s fees for any work required because of the contempt, so it can be a costly mistake.

    What is a Contempt of Court Warrant

    When an individual commits contempt of court for such things as failing to pay a traffic fine, or failing to appear at a mandatory court hearing, the judge may issue a contempt of court warrant, also referred to as a “bench warrant.” This contempt of court warrant authorizes law enforcement officers to arrest the individual if he is located. A bench warrant differs from an arrest warrant in that arrest warrants are issued when someone is suspected of having committed a crime. Bench warrants are issued for individuals who have committed an offense or insult to the court. Arrest warrants are issued in criminal cases, but a contempt of court warrant may be issued in both civil and criminal cases.

    Imprisonment for Contempt of Court

    In the event an individual is charged with criminal contempt, the contemptuous act must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Contempt of court penalties imposed for criminal contempt, whether a fine or imprisonment, is enforced unconditionally.

    Even in cases of civil contempt, jail time is sometimes threatened, though if imposed it is usually brief. In fact, jail time usually ends when the individual complies with the judge’s order. In this situation, the jailed individual is usually placed in the custody of the local sheriff or other court officer and, because he is said to “hold the keys to his own cell,” due process of law is not necessary.

    Ability to Comply

    Jail time sanctions may only be imposed for civil contempt if the individual actually has the ability to comply with the court’s order, yet has failed to do so. For example, Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders exist in John and Suzy’s divorce prohibiting either party from selling or getting rid of any marital assets until after the divorce has been finalized. During a hearing, the judge learns that John has removed a pricey piece of art from the couple’s storage container. The judge orders John to return the art, but John does not have the ability to comply because it has been sold to a stranger. The court cannot order John jailed until he complies with the court’s order, as compliance is impossible. The court could level other sanctions against John, however.

    Common Actions that Lead to Contempt of Court

    Citations for contempt are most commonly levied for violations of existing court orders. In civil and family law, some actions that would be in contempt of court may include:

    • Failure or refusal to make court-ordered child or spousal support payments, or failure to pay the full amount ordered on time.
    • Failure to abide by the Marital Settlement Agreement or divorce decree, refusing to return specified property, or taking away property not awarded to that party.
    • Failure to comply with the terms of a court ordered parenting plan or child visitation order, such as returning the children late, or failing to return them at all, or failing to allow the other parent visitation as ordered.
    • Failure or refusal to return property ordered to be returned in a judgment on a civil lawsuit.
    • Violating a no-contact or protective order.

    The power to punish for contempt of court is inherent in all courts and is essential to preservation of order in judicial proceedings. Contempt of court results from the willful disobedience of an order of the court. “A willful act is one which is ‘done voluntarily and intentionally with the specific intent to do something the law forbids, or with the specific intent to fail to do something the law requires to be done; that is to say, with bad purpose either to disobey or disregard the law.’ ” Widman v. Widman, 348 S.C. 97, 119, 557 S.E.2d 693, 705 (Ct. App. 2001).

    The South Carolina family law court has the inherent power to punish for violation of its orders. See In Interest of Darlene C., 278 S.C. 664, 666, 301 S.E.2d 136, 137 (1983). “That power is essential to the preservation of order in judicial proceedings, and to the enforcement of the courts’ judgments, orders, and writs and consequently to the due administration of justice.” Id., see generally S.C. Code Ann. §§ 20-7-1330 through -1350 (Supp. 2009) (establishing broad contempt powers within the family court).

    How Not to Act in the Courtroom

    Rhoad made an obscene gesture to his trial counsel before leaving the courtroom. Rhoad was brought back into the courtroom and questioned about his actions. Rhoad first admitted he “might have flipped [trial counsel] off,” but then he denied that he did it. The judge took testimony from witnesses in the courtroom to confirm that Rhoad had in fact made an obscene gesture. Rhoad then informed the judge of his frustration with his trial counsel, and he apologized to trial counsel and the judge. The judge held Rhoad in contempt and sentenced him to one year imprisonment consecutive to his current sentence. Rhoad then exclaimed to the judge, “F**k you, you bastard.” The judge held Rhoad in contempt for that statement and sentenced him to another year consecutive to Rhoad’s current sentence.

    The lesson is that no matter how emotional the situation, you had better behave in a South Carolina court or you will spend time in jail.

    Failure to Comply with the Divorce Decree

    In Davis, the court found the Husband in violation for failure to comply with the family court’s orders concerning the distribution of personal property, payment of Wife’s equitable share of the marital home, harassment, and communication with Wife about the children’s issues. Davis v. Davis

    Failure to Comply with a Temporary Order

    In McFarlin, the court found the husband in contempt for not paying the mortgage on the marital home despite his claims that he did not have the financial ability to do so. McFarlin v. McFarlin


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    Family Plan Covers You, Your Spouse and Minor Children

    How to file a contempt of courtSometimes Judges impose seemingly harsh decisions which can include (at times) sanctions for monetary penalties and mandatory participation in programs and/or court sanction organizations. Appealing contempt of Court in a Civil case is seldom discussed and well understood by parties to litigation as well as many of their attorneys.

    I have decided to give you a brief introduction to this topic in this post.

    A proceeding to enforce litigants’ rights under Rule 1:10-3 is essentially a civil proceeding to coerce a defendant into compliance with the court’s order for the benefit of the private litigant. Thus, an application for relief under Rule 1:10-3 is distinguishable from a criminal contempt proceeding which is ‘essentially criminal’ in nature and is instituted for the purpose of punishing a defendant who fails to comply with a court order. Accordingly, relief under Rule 1:10-3, whether it be the imposition of incarceration or a sanction, is not for the purpose of punishment, but as a sanction intending to be a coercive measure to facilitate the enforcement of the court order.”

    An Appellate Court will review a trial court’s imposition of sanctions against a litigant pursuant to the “abuse of discretion standard”. “An abuse of discretion” arises when a decision is made without a certification in opposition to a plaintiff’s motion.

    In a recent published case a defendant filed an appeal challenging two earlier orders and was in the process of seeking to stay these orders pending appeal when the plaintiff filed another Rule 1:10-3 application. The Appellate Court was unable to conclude that defendant’s delay in paying the sanctions was willfully contemptuous.

    A trial judge who handles contempt motions must set forth findings of fact to impose sanctions rather than just setting forth the facts which first led to the court’s decision. A judge cannot merely state he/she is granting the motion for the reasons set forth in plaintiff’s pleadings. Such an approach does not constitute adequate fact finding. In In re Trust Created by Agreement Dated December 20, 1961, 399 N.J. Super. 237, 253-54 (App. Div. 2006), aff’d, 194 N.J. 276 (2008). The Appellant court held that a trial judge may grant or deny a motion for the reasons offered by the parties only if “the judge makes such reliance explicit”; makes “clear the extent of his or her agreement with and reliance on the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law”; and “supplie(s) a summary of his or her findings in the opinion” that clearly demonstrates “that the trial judge carefully considered the evidentiary record and did not abdicate his or her decision-making responsibility.”

    To discuss your NJ Appeal matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at [email protected] Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.

    By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County, NJ Appeals Attorney

    How to file a contempt of court

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    Topics Constitutional Law & Civil Rights | Criminal Law | Dispute Resolution
    11 Dec 2019

    Firstly, it must be noted that no, contempt of Court does not relate solely to criminal proceedings nor to criminal behaviour. Contempt of Court applies whenever behaviour exhibits simple disregard of a Court order.

    Contempt of Court is divided into two categories namely, civil contempt and criminal contempt. In terms of the latter instance, disgrace is brought upon the Court’s moral authority. In terms of civil contempt of Court, an action of disobedience is displayed. Therefore, the separation of the two forms of contempt lie in the conduct of the contemnor and the resulting ‘effect’ it has on the particular Court. This clarification ensures that any notion whereby it is thought that criminal contempt is a crime and civil contempt it not, is now dismissed.

    When can I make use of this remedy?

    Not every instance of disobedience of an order of Court will justify the remedy of contempt of Court. In civil proceedings, there are a variety of alternative remedies that can be relied upon and it is strongly recommended that these remedies first be considered (e.g. a writ of execution) and possibly exercised, as an application to find someone in contempt of Court (be it civil or criminal) may be punishable as a crime. This factor then brings about the issue of violation of the contemnor’s rights which is in conflict with Section 12 of the Constitution, stating that no person shall be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause as well as not being detained without a trial.

    A distinction was drawn by the common law between ad solvendam pecuniam (payment of money) and ad factum praestandum (performance of a certain act alternatively, refraining from performance of a certain act). Failure to pay money in terms of a Court order is not considered an action of contempt. Another way to assess this factor is whether the performance can be quantified. Therefore, it is important to consider what the performance of the Court order is before you can rely on contempt.

    How do I apply for contempt of Court? Should this be my recourse?

    In order to find the contemnor in contempt, a notice of motion along with an affidavit is used in support of the application. The notice of motion must state that the Respondent is to show cause as to why an order should not be made on a final basis declaring that the said Respondent is in contempt of a particular paragraph of the Court’s order alternatively, is in contempt of the Court’s order in totality.

    However, certain elements must be proven in order to determine whether the contemnor can in fact be found in contempt. The Court in Mstjhabeng Local Municipality v Eskom Holdings Limited and Others; Mkhonto and Others v Compensation Solutions (Pty ) Limited (CCT 217/15; CCT 99/16) [2017] ZACC 35; 2017 (11) BCLR 1408 (CC); 2018 (1) SA 1 (CC) cited that the below requirements must be satisfied in order to succeed with your application:

    • The existence of the order;
    • The order must be served on, or brought to the notice of the alleged contemnor;
    • There must be non – compliance with the order; and
    • The non – compliance must be wilful and mala fide (there must be deliberate defiance of the Court order).

    Bear in mind that due to the fact that contempt is a criminal offence, in respect of point 4 above, the standard of proof is that of beyond a reasonable doubt. This entails that the alleged contemnor bears an evidentiary burden to rebut the allegation that his non–compliance was wilful and mala fide.


    Where non–compliance of an order of Court is in relation to a quantifiable thing (ad solvendam pecuniam), you may not rely on contempt. Alternative remedies could possibly be declaratory orders, mandamus, structural interdicts or a writ of execution. These remedies do play a role in enforcing Court orders in a civil proceeding.

    Due to the fact that contempt proceedings may result in the alleged contemnor being found guilty of a criminal offence, should this recourse not be the only available option, the Courts will not be favourable to an application for contempt of Court. Therefore, the writer is of the opinion that it is of the utmost importance to adequately assess all possible remedies before contempt can even be considered.

    • Contempt of court…on Facebook and WhatsApp?
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    • Contempt of court judgment highlights debate around efficacy of Labour Court interdicts

    (This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)

    How to file a contempt of court

    Most family law cases in Texas have orders filed by the court. If one of the parties is not abiding by the order, the other party must bring it to the attention of the court. Most often, that is done by filing a Motion for Contempt or a Motion for Enforcement.

    What is a Motion for Contempt?

    A Motion for Contempt is a common practice for enforcing a court order including child support. Contempt of court means that the individual is “disobeying” the court order required of them. When filing a Motion for Contempt, each violation results in another “count” of contempt. Contempt is often filed for failure to pay child support or medical expenses for a child. This can also include failure to pay spousal maintenance. These are maintenance or payments required by a former spouse following a divorce. Each occurrence is listed out in the Motion for Contempt.

    The Motion for Contempt must be served to the person violating the court order since some types of contempt may result in jail time. A process server or a constable must notify the person in violation of the court order and file their sworn statement with the Court. A process server is a professional responsible for delivering legal documents to the defendant. After notification, 21 days must pass before the hearing can be set. The person in contempt must be notified of the trial through a Notice of Hearing.

    During the hearing, the person claiming contempt must prove to the court that the facts are correct and that the other party is in contempt. The non-abiding party will try to show that they were following the court order. The person may also try to provide reasons why they were unable to meet the requirements of the order. In the case of late child support, even if the non-abiding party comes to court with the funds to rectify the missed payments, the judge can order jail time.

    What is a Motion for Enforcement?

    A Motion for Enforcement is more often appropriate to make the other party adhere to the order. In many cases, it is practiced in cases where a parent has been ordered to take their child to a therapist. It can also be when a parent is required to surrender the child to the other parent at the time and place that was ordered. It can be used to enforce a monetary order with regards to a final division of property in a divorce decree. The other party may be ordered to turn over the proceeds of a sale of community property or to close out a community credit card. In this case, the Court goes beyond finding the other party is not obeying the order. The Court will issue an order that the action will be done. Often, the order can be used to have a third party, like a bank or brokerage house, complete the required action. This allows for no further need for cooperation from the party that was not following the order.

    If you are having issues enforcing a Texas court order, Vaught Law Firm is here to help you through the process. Get in touch with us today to set up a consultation.

    Preparing a Defense for Contempt of Court

    Contempt of court is something that most people associate with disrespectful conduct during a court proceeding. Though courts are able to use contempt laws to maintain proper behavior during hearings, contempt motions can also be used to enforce judgments or orders. In Georgia, it is possible to have a motion of contempt filed against you for failing to adhere to orders that were approved during family court. If you have failed to pay alimony, child support, adhere to custody agreements, or divide property, your former spouse may take you to court for contempt. When this happens, preparing a defense for contempt of court is necessary in order to avoid fines and other penalties.

    Responding to the Motion

    Once your former spouse or partner has initiated a contempt action, you will be served by the initiating party or your local Sheriff department. After you are served, you will typically have 30 days in which to respond. Either you will need to prove that you are now complying with the court order or show that you were never in contempt. In order to show compliance, you would need to pay all past-due support payments and continue to follow agreements, but showing that you were never in contempt requires lodging defense and attending a court hearing.

    Possible Defenses

    In order to be found guilty of contempt, it must be proven that your actions were intentional. Therefore, if you plan to fight the motion, you must be prepared to show the court that your actions were not willful. If you were unaware of a final motion establishing a specific visitation schedule or support amount, providing proof that you never received the order is one way to show that you did not willfully disobey a court order. Also, if you were unable to pay an ordered support amount and can prove that it was impossible to obey the order, you can show the court that you did not intend to disobey.

    Common Penalties

    Georgia courts have severe penalties for those who are found guilty of willfully disobeying a court order . If you cannot prove your innocence, you could find yourself responsible for paying the attorney’s fees of your former spouse and paying any past due support. You could even be incarerated. In situations in which a contempt motion was filed because of failure to make timely support payments, the court could order wage garnishment. Alternatively, if an Income Deduction Order is not already in place, the court can contact your employer to initiate one that automatically takes money from your income in order to pay child support or alimony obligations.

    Contacting an Attorney

    Contempt of court is a serious violation that can impact your finances and future family law cases. Additionally, being found guilty could lead to incarceration and other life-altering penalties. If you believe that you will be served with a motion of contempt, it is important to contact a qualified contempt attorney . The attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum are prepared to launch an aggressive defense on your behalf. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at one of our conveniently located Atlanta metro area offices so that we can discuss your unique situation.

    What is contempt of court? Your Georgia court order usually contains numerous findings as to child support, custody, division of property, restraining orders, etc. However, if the other party does not comply with the order, you can’t go to the police. You have to file a rule to show cause complaint in the Georgia family court and ask the judge to find them in contempt of court. Contempt is the willful violation of a court order and the punishments imposed are entirely up to the discretion of the judge.

    You Can be Fined Per Day for Contempt of Court

    There is likewise no merit to the husband’s claim that the ordered payment of $1,500 per day is contrary to OCGA В§ 15-6-8(5) . Indeed, OCGA В§ 15-6-8(5) provides that the superior courts have the authority to punish contemptuous behavior by imposing fines not to exceed $500; however, this monetary limitation addresses the circumstance of criminal contempt and is not applicable to sanctions imposed for civil contempt. Minor v. Minor, 257 Ga. 706, 710(3), 362 S.E.2d 208 (1987) ; In re Harvey, 219 Ga.App. 76, 79, 464 S.E.2d 34 (1995) . And this is plainly a situation of civil contempt inasmuch as the sanction employed by the trial court was entirely remedial in nature. Id. at 79, 464 S.E.2d 34. See also, Alexander v. DeKalb County, 264 Ga. 362, 364(1), 444 S.E.2d 743 (1994) ; Ensley v. Ensley, 239 Ga. 860, 238 S.E.2d 920 (1977).

    Inability to pay is a defense

    Inability to pay is a defense only where the contemnor demonstrates that he has exhausted all resources and assets available and is still unable to secure the funds necessary to enable compliance with the court’s order. He must show ” clearly that he has in good faith exhausted all the resources at his command and has made a diligent and bona fide effort to comply with the order of the court,” Snider v. Snider, 190 Ga. 381, 386, 9 S.E.2d 654 (1940) (citation and punctuation omitted), and that he cannot borrow sufficient funds to comply with the obligation, see Weiner v. Weiner, 219 Ga. 44, 44, 131 S.E.2d 561 (1963).

    Search for more Georgia divorce and contempt of court law.

    How to file a contempt of court

    This may be considered AN ADVERTISEMENT or Advertising Material under the Rules of Professional Conduct governing Georgia lawyers. Under no circumstance will Divorce In Georgia be held liable for any loss or damage caused by a visitor’s reliance on information obtained through this web site or any other communication from us. It is the responsibility of each individual visitor to evaluate the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any information, opinion, advice or other content. This site is intended to provide you only with general information. However, there is no guarantee that this information is comprehensive or accurate. Divorce In Georgia does NOT provide LEGAL, financial, or tax advice. Please consult a professional in these areas. Only an attorney licensed in your state can provide you with legal advice. The content of any third party site which visit via a link from this site is solely the responsibility of the provider of that web site.

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    Official Procedure Last Change May 5, 2017

    Motion for Order of Contempt

    How to file:

    Location of event: Bankruptcy > Motions, Applications & Briefs > Contempt (including Violation of Discharge Injunction), Motion for Order of

    Things to be aware of when filing: This motion should only be used pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 524(a) or FRBP 9020. If neither of these are applicable, a more appropriate event should be used such as Motion for Sanctions.

    General Information

    This event may be used if a party has failed to comply with a previous order of the court, such as a violation of the discharge injunction.

    The event should not be used by a debtor seeking damages only under Section 362(k) or violation of the automatic stay. The proper event for that situation is Motion for Sanctions. (Unlike the discharge, which is given by a specific order, the automatic stay arises by operation of law, so no specific court order has been violated.)

    Filing requirements

    • The Motion must be signed by the filing party.
    • A Certificate of Service must accompany the Motion.
    • A proposed order must be uploaded.

    Step-by-Step Instructions

    3. Enter case number (in the format xx-xxxxx) and click Next.

    4. Select Contempt (including Violation of Discharge Injunction), Motion for Order of from the event list and click Next.

    5. Select appropriate radio button to indicate whether or not the Motion you are filing is amended.

    6. Check box if jointly filing with another attorney. Click Next.

    7. If you indicated that you are filing jointly with other attorney(s), select additional attorney(s) and click Next.

    Note: You cannot add attorneys. Only attorneys who have previously entered an appearance will be available for selection.

    8. Select the party filer. If the party is not listed, or cannot be selected, view instructions on adding a new party. Click Next.

    Note: The “Attorney/Party Association” screen may appear. If your party selection was correct, check the box to create an association and click Next.

    9. Browse to attach the document to be filed (pdf file). Click Next.

    10. Select appropriate radio button to indicate under which section or rule the motion is being filed and click Next.

    11. If you indicated in step 5 that you are filing an amended motion, all pending motions on the docket are displayed. Select the motion that is being amended and click Next.

    12. Select prefix text, if applicable, and click Next.

    Note: The prefix text option is not available if you indicated in Step 5 that the Motion you are filing is amended.

    13. Verify final docket text. If correct, click Next to submit.

    Note: The Notice of Electronic Filing displays giving you the document number. Copies of this notice are immediately e-mailed to all participants who receive electronic notification in the case.

    How to file a contempt of court

    As part of the divorce process, parties have to reach an agreement on areas like child support, child custody, and spousal support. When the parties cannot reach a decision through a legal agreement, a judge will make the decision and enter a court order on these issues. The court can use its contempt of court powers to enforce a court order. Either spouse not adhering to the terms of the court order can face contempt of court.

    Common Contempt Issues

    Failure to pay child support is the most common reason for filing contempt motions. The other reasons include failure to pay alimony, or not adhering to court ordered visitation or custody schedule. If you fail to follow the custody order you can find yourself in contempt of the court order on child custody.

    Who Files the Contempt Motion and Who Responds?

    If your ex-spouse or your child’s parent is not following a court order, you can file a contempt motion. Your ex-spouse or child’s parent will need to reply to the motion and show the judge why they should not be held in contempt of court.

    Contempt Issues and Modifications

    It is possible to avoid facing contempt of court action by petitioning the court for modification of the order due to substantial and material change in circumstances. For instance, if the partner paying child support has lost his job he/she must apply for downward modification of child support. Now, the ex-spouse cannot bring in a contempt action. However, please note that filing a motion for downward modification (as in this example) does not release the payor from payment obligations. These continue to accumulate till the modification is entered by the court.

    Why Contempt Motion Should Be Filed

    When a contempt motion is filed, the judge can enforce the terms of the court order. For instance, in the case of willful non-payment of child support, the court can order payment of back arrears as a lump sum at once or even order wage garnishment from the parent’s salary. It’s important to remember that in order for the court to hold a person in contempt the judge must find the person willfully disobeyed the court’s order.

    We can help you file the contempt motion in the right manner highlighting the reasons why the court should grant your motion. In case your ex-spouse has issued a contempt of court show cause notice, we can help you respond to the notice in front of the judge in the best possible manner.

    Contempt of court can only come into play after a court has issued judgments, orders or decrees to govern the behavior of the parents, which it can do at any point during the divorce proceedings. Once a court has issued such decrees, it is important for you to observe them to the best of your ability and, at the same time, to take note of any potential violations on the part of your ex-wife or former partner. Courts have been known to take it personally when a parent disregards their orders.

    Contempt Proceedings FAQs

    What Is Contempt of Court?

    How to file a contempt of court

    Contempt of court typically refers to a willful action that disturbs, disrespects, or disobeys the orders or dignity of the court, judge, or other participants.

    How Do You Prove Contempt?

    How to file a contempt of court

    If an attorney and their client can produce evidence that their opponents have willfully disregarded a court decree, then they can “make a motion” or “move” for a contempt of court ruling.

    To find a party guilty of contempt, the court cannot simply conclude that the accused party did not act in accordance with the decree. The court must also conclude that the accused party did have the ability to comply and therefore violated the decree both deliberately and without good reason.

    What Happens if the Court Finds Contempt?

    How to file a contempt of court

    If the court goes on to rule for contempt, then it can hand down new or modified decrees binding the parent whom it has found to be in contempt.

    It is then up to the accused to present evidence that he or she did not have the ability to comply or that it was an “honest mistake.”

    Is Contempt Appropriate in My Case?

    How to file a contempt of court

    Technically, a contempt action is appropriate anytime a party “contemptuously” violates any provision of the decree. As a practical matter, however, the violation or violations should be significant.

    What Are Contempt of Court Penalties?

    How to file a contempt of court

    The evidence for a contempt ruling often does exist, and if you and your attorney can produce it, you will substantially improve your case. In fact, your attorney will often file a motion of contempt in tandem with a motion to modify.

    To stimulate compliance, the court has a whole range of remedies that you can request, ranging from a simple warning to incarceration to attorney’s fees to compensatory custody time (and more).

    In other words, contempt of court can be a very powerful tool. It simply requires evidence.

    What Kind of Crime Is Contempt of Court?

    How to file a contempt of court

    Bear in mind that an initial contempt is a civil (not a criminal) offense, so the court can only hand down orders designed to stimulate your wife’s compliance, not simply to punish her.

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    How to file a contempt of court

    How to file a contempt of court

    How to file a contempt of court

    How to file a contempt of court

    How to file a contempt of court

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    Services For Filing Enforcement And Defending Those Accused Of Contempt

    What Constitutes Contempt Of Court

    Contempt of court is a legal charge that can be made against persons who fail to comply with the terms of their divorce settlement. A divorce settlement is a binding legal agreement. The court that renders a divorce decree holds the full power to enforce all points of the settlement. A need to bring forth charges is done in a formal manner, pursued by a person filing a motion with the court.

    Persons found guilty of contempt of court in Georgia may receive jail time, fines and otherwise be penalized. For detailed information you can search the internet for specific state laws, sentencing guidelines or articles on violation of court orders in Georgia.

    The Motion For Contempt Of Court

    The motion must be very specific in identifying why the motion has merit. Among other things, the motion should specify the obligations that are being violated, and why this should be considered as contempt. The party filing the motion bears the responsibility of proving the allegation so it is important to have support documentation when you go to court. We offer services to help clients with contempt issues including:

    Filing A Motion Against Your Ex

    We offer personal consultations to discuss your situation. If you can articulate your situation and provide the necessary proof, we can prepare and file the motion. While many issues are settled in court, it is possible to have the matter resolved without such expense and stress. We understand that the goal is simply to force compliance with the divorce decree. We do not recommend attempting to bring forth a motion for the purposes of trying to punish your ex-spouse. In some situations the way to resolve non-compliance issues is to consider the cause, and then modify the terms of your divorce settlement.

    Defending Yourself Against Charges

    Not every motion for violating a court order has merit. There are countless examples of vengeful or controlling ex-spouses filing unjustified motions. Our law firm has extensive experience in trial law, and specifically in representing clients charged with serious criminal conduct. Representing a client facing contempt charges is rarely a complicated event. If you are truly negligent, and susceptible to being found guilty, we can often negotiate on your behalf to mitigate consequences.

    How to file a contempt of court

    How to file a contempt of court

    Request a Consultation

    Court-issued orders during or after divorce, such as a child support order or visitation schedule, are legally binding. Failing to abide by the conditions listed in the order can lead to you being held in contempt and will subject you to court penalties.

    This article provides a broad overview of contempt including what constitutes contempt, the consequences of contempt and how to file for contempt.

    What is contempt?

    It’s possible to violate a court order at any time during the divorce process. Common violations that can result in contempt include failing to pay child support or alimony, not following a visitation agreement or ignoring a court-ordered asset distribution.

    However, in order to prove someone is in contempt the accuser must show that their opponent has intentionally or willfully violated the order. Intent is key. In order to find someone in contempt, the accuser must show that the accused party:

    1. Knew about the order,
    2. Had the ability to comply with the order but knowingly violated the conditions, and
    3. Lacks any valid excuse for the violation.

    Since the burden of proof lies with the accuser, it’s important to make sure you have sufficient evidence to support your claim before filing for contempt.

    For example, if your ex fails to allow you to see your kids during your prescribed parenting time, but the reason she did so was because she had a flat tire then you almost certainly wouldn’t convince the court that she was in contempt. However, if she repeatedly comes up with excuses for not allowing you to see the children and you can show that those excuses are disingenuous, then you will have a strong case.

    It’s also a good idea to send the offending party a warning letter before actually filing for contempt. The court will see this as an act of good faith and proof that you are not simply trying to stir up trouble with your ex. Include in the letter a clause specifically defining how they can fix the situation before going to court. For example, if they owe you child support you could give them a certain number of days to pay the support before you seek court enforcement.

    If they continue to disregard the order, you can show the court you made a good-hearted effort to resolve the issue without going to court but the opposing party simply won’t comply.

    Consequences of contempt

    Contempt can include both civil and criminal penalties that range in severity depending on the infraction. These include fines, compensatory visitation, a change in custody arrangements, and even jail time.

    Typically, if the court determines someone is in contempt, they’ll give them a chance to make up for the violation. That might involve paying back support that is owed or giving the opposing party additional parenting time for failing to meet a visitation schedule. If they’re able to meet those make-up requirements, the court likely will not punish them any further since the entire point of a contempt action is to seek compliance.

    If an issue like withholding visitation is an ongoing problem, the court can award extra time with the kids and even modify the custody arrangement, which requires the contempt charge to be filed with a motion to modify.

    It’s generally rare for a court to issue jail time over contempt, although the option does exist. Usually, the threat of jail time is enough to persuade the offender to comply.

    Some states will also issue damages on top of contempt sanctions to cover the losses that result when the other party failed to act. For example, if your wife was supposed to pay off a credit card so you could secure a loan for the business you own but she fails to do so, the loss of business would constitute damages that you could request she pay for.

    Filing for contempt

    Filing for contempt is similar to filing for divorce. A new case is open and a petition is filed. Your ex-wife will need to be properly served.

    Then at court, you must show evidence that contempt took place and prove that the violation was willful.

    Before you file, however, here are some steps you should run through to make sure filing for contempt is worth the time and effort.

    Read your decree – Read and re-read the language in your divorce decree so you are absolutely sure that a violation has occurred. Keep in mind you must prove your ex had the ability to uphold the order and intentionally ignored it. This requires solid evidence that will hold up in court.

    Contact an attorney – Although you can represent yourself in a contempt action, it is a better idea to speak with an experienced family law attorney. Even if you don’t hire an attorney, you can gain a lot of valuable information from a consultation that can help you determine your odds of success. If your case is successful, the offending party is often required to pay your attorney fees.

    Propose a resolution – Your goal in filing for contempt is to get the offending party to comply with the court order. It’s often enough to just show your ex that you are willing to go to court.

    File a motion – If you’ve exhausted all other efforts and your ex still won’t comply, you then need to file a motion of contempt in the same court that issued the order. The court will issue a hearing date. Your attorney will handle this part, but you’ll need to research your local court’s procedures if you’re representing yourself.

    Serving your ex – The offending party needs to be officially notified of the coming charges. Once the hearing is scheduled, paperwork needs to be served to every involved party.

    The hearing – At the hearing, the judge will hear evidence from the alleging side in addition to the defending party’s reasoning for failing to comply. After hearing both sides, the judge will decide whether or not contempt occurred. If there is enough proof, an order will be given specifying how to resolve the issue.

    If you believe your spouse is intentionally refusing to follow a court order, speak with a family law attorney as soon as possible.

    A final order in a divorce proceeding is intended to bind both spouses, unless the court later modifies the order. A spouse who needs the court to change a provision related to spousal support or child support, for example, must ask the court directly to make that change. All of the relevant legal procedures must be followed before the change takes effect. Unless and until the spouse does that, he or she must comply with the existing order.

    Unfortunately, this simple fact is not always recognized. A spouse who is not satisfied with the result of a divorce proceeding may deliberately disobey a provision of the final order with which he or she disagrees. For example, the spouse may view violating the order as a way to punish his or her ex-spouse. Ways in which a divorce order can be violated include failing to pay spousal support, failing to pay child support, or hindering the right of the other spouse to see the couple’s children according to the visitation plan arranged by the court.

    If you are in this situation, you may want to file a motion to hold your ex-spouse in contempt of court. A lawyer can help make sure that the proper procedural requirements are followed. Your ex-spouse must have notice of the hearing on the contempt motion, and most courts have set up a specific process for filing these motions. If this process is not followed properly, or your ex-spouse is not notified of the hearing, your contempt motion likely will not succeed.

    Justia offers a lawyer directory to simplify researching, comparing, and contacting attorneys who fit your legal needs.

    The Motion for Contempt

    The motion must specify what part of the divorce order your ex-spouse violated, and what he or she did to violate it. The burden of proof at the hearing rests on the person who filed the motion. You may need witnesses and documents to support your motion; note, however, that courts tend to frown upon using your children as witnesses.

    Along with documenting the dates and times when the other parent failed to comply with the order, you should document how you attempted to remedy the situation – including texts, emails, and phone calls.

    Your ex-spouse also will appear at the hearing, probably with his or her lawyer, to argue that the order was not violated. A judge will hear evidence presented by each side before making a decision. If the judge rules in your favor, the court will file an order against your ex-spouse. This document will state not only that he or she violated the divorce order but what he or she needs to do to comply with it or make up for the violation. After the hearing, your ex-spouse will be given the chance to comply with the order to avoid being held in contempt.

    Enforcing a Contempt Order

    If your ex-spouse fails to comply with the order during the specified time window, he or she may face penalties. These can extend to jail time until the non-compliance ends, but a judge does not always order jail time in these situations. You should remember that the purpose of a contempt order is not to punish your ex-spouse for what he or she failed to do, but to give your ex-spouse an incentive to comply with the divorce order moving forward. In some circumstances, ordering jail time or financial penalties may be counterproductive. An ex-spouse who fails to pay the required amount of spousal support or child support may simply be unable to find the funds because he or she is unemployed or under-employed. Putting that person in jail or levying fines would make it even more difficult for him or her to comply with the divorce order.

    It is a given that you are not forced nor required to take a liking to any particular judges in the field. However, you are required to obey the court orders, as well as respect the entire judicial process. Nobody is above the law after all. That said, anybody who dares to disrupt a hearing or a trial can be charged with contempt of court. The same thing also applied to those who do not wish to follow court orders. There are also quite a few others that are usually treated as contempt.

    These include refusing to support child support orders, being rude or trying to assault the judge or any other person present in the courtroom, and being particularly noisy that the court proceeding is getting disrupted. In essence, there are as many ways to commit contempt as there is the amount of sand on the beach. Just behave properly and you should be good.

    What Does Contempt of Court Mean?

    When talking about contempt of court, the one who is usually being charged more often than not is the party to the action. Yes, parties could obviously be held in contempt, but they really are not the only ones that are held for it. For example, witnesses who decided to flake out at the last second may be held in contempt. Of course, misbehaving attorneys are no exceptions.

    It could be the attorney for either of the parties or any of the witnesses. Not only them, even the jurors, other court personnel, and even those who are in no relation to the case who insert themselves into the case can also be held in contempt. Nobody is exempted from being held in content.

    An example as to how an outsider can be held in contempt if that outsider was walking down the corridor, then he saw the witness. Being a jerk, he decides to stop the witness from entering the courtroom for whatever reason. He essentially interfered with the court proceeding and made it more difficult to serve justice and order.

    Just like most of the matters in court, judges are the ones who have the responsibility and privilege of charging people to be held in contempt. Contempt could be used to force people to obey the judge. However, it could also be used the other way. It can be a disciplinary hammer for those who decide to be naughty inside the courtroom.

    We do understand that all of this information could be quite confusing. In order to make it easier to digest, we will be breaking it more into its four basic components: civil or criminal, and direct or indirect.

    What is the difference between civil and criminal contempt?

    In a straightforward definition, civil contempt means refusing to follow a court order. It can be either of two. Either you do not do what the court specifically tells you to do or you did what the court specifically told you not to do. Either of which is not good and both are considered as civil contempt. Most of the time, civil contempt is utilized during divorce cases. Take this, for example, two people who used to love each other no longer do so and decide to file a divorce.

    That is all good and fine, but the other party does not wish to pay for support which the court had officially ordered him to pay. That is civil contempt. Another example is when one of these two former lovers decides to not let the other see the kid despite the court giving a parenting time order.

    As we have already explained earlier, the court uses contempt to make people follow its orders. In the case of the parent not allowing the other parent to see the child, the judge may order her to pay a hundred bucks a day until the other parent sees the child.

    On the other hand, criminal contempt is another kind of pokemon. This kind of contempt happens when a person actively disrespects the court. This could also be the case if a person acts it difficult to let rule and order be observed and administered inside the courtroom.

    For example, someone being accused got a bit too riled up and blames the judge. He then starts to shout cuss and curses towards him. This act can be considered as criminal contempt. Of course, criminal contempt does not only happen during trials of criminal cases.

    Using the earlier example, if the parent who was ordered to pay a hundred bucks per day started cussing at the judge, then that is also considered as criminal contempt. This kind of contempt is usually utilized in order to punish individuals who exhibited misdemeanors. The consequence of committing a criminal contempt can be spending a week in jail or paying a thousand dollar fine.

    What is the difference between direct and indirect contempt?

    Another thing that the court has to differentiate from is direct and indirect contempt. Basically, direct contempt is when the contempt happens within the vicinity of the courtroom. For example, a witness still refuses to answer even when the judge has already given him an order to respond to an attorney’s question. This is considered as a direct contempt. Since the entire thing happened right in front of the judge, the judge holds the power to declare that as contempt right then and there.

    On the other hand, indirect contempt is the opposite of direct contempt. It is contempt that happened outside the courtroom. For example, let us use the divorcing couple again. It turns out that the father who does not want to pay for child support actually actively hides his assets so that nobody can claim their share. That is an indirect contempt.

    That is still a way of being a hindrance to administering justice and order. In addition to that, attorneys can also be held in indirect contempt.

    An example of this is talking to jurors outside the court. This kind of contempt must be brought into the judge’s attention in order to show cause, setting out the actions taken, and the orders that had been violated. After this, the court will then hold a hearing to ensure that everything reported is actually true and not just some fabricated story.

    You’ve been to court, had a long court hearing and got a court order which specifies a custody schedule, orders the other party to pay support or to transfer property to you. What do you do when the other party refuses to follow the order? Your remedy is initiate proceedings to have the opposing party held in contempt of court, which can result in fines, sanctions, imprisonment or both.

    But what is contempt?

    It is crucial to understand the difference between civil and criminal contempt in order to effectively enforce a court order. In this article, we’ll got through the purposes, pros and cons of each type of content as well as answer other frequent situations we come across in our domestic practice. Hopefully some of these explanations apply to your situation and you will allow us to help or take what you’ve learned and proceed successfully on your own.

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    Civil Contempt

    Civil contempt is used to compel compliance with a court order and to curb ongoing conduct which violates a court order. The only means to compel compliance is put the offender in jail until the person complies with the order. In order to have someone held in civil contempt you must prove: 1) the offender has the ability to comply, 2) the order is still in force, and 3) the refusal to comply must be willful. Furthermore, it is required that the order be in writing and filed with the clerk.

    You can file for civil contempt either by filing a motion for contempt or a motion for order to show cause, requested that a Judge issue an Order to Show Cause as to why the offender should not be held in contempt. Note that, if the offender has complied with the order by the time of the hearing they cannot be held in civil contempt.

    Other lesser known points if you’re seeking civil contempt:

    • Generally the court may not award costs or damages.
    • Generally the court may not award attorney’s fees.

    Civil contempt is frequently used in situations where the opposing party has refused to turn over documents or refuses to pay support as ordered. Many times judges will seek to compel compliance if an offender is found in civil contempt by setting a deadline by which they must comply or present themselves to be imprisoned. Not surprisingly, this method frequently accomplishes the objective of compliance.

    Criminal Contempt

    While criminal contempt can be punished by a judge if an act is committed that is likely to interrupt or interfere with court, for the purposes of this guide we will be discussing indirect criminal contempt. A proceeding for criminal contempt can only be initiated by the filing of a motion to show cause and the issuance of a show cause order by a Judge.

    In order to prove criminal contempt, you must prove that the violation was willful and that the person was warned in some way that the conduct was improper. Clearly a valid order would place a person on notice that a violation of the order would be improper.

    Possible punishments for criminal contempt include censure, imprisonment of up to 30 days and up to a $500 fine. These punishments can be used in combination. Imprisonment may be suspended and used in combination with probation.

    Key Points for Criminal Contempt

    • Awarding attorney’s fees is not appropriate for criminal contempt nor may they be made a condition of a suspended sentence for criminal contempt.
    • For criminal contempt the order does not have to be in writing.

    While not exhaustive, hopefully this can get you started on pursuing your contempt claim. Contact us today for help with enforcement of orders throughout North Carolina.

    When you go to family court, at some point the judge will issue orders in your case. You may be ordered to pay child support and/or spousal support and you may get a visitation order that governs when you or the other parent sees the children. If your partner does not pay your court ordered support, and/or tries to keep you from seeing your children, you can accuse him or her of contempt. If you fail to obey any of the judge’s orders, you can be charged with contempt, and run the risk of going to jail for up to five days or pay a fine up to $1000, for each violation or both.

    To be found in contempt you have to know that there’s an order and what the order says. If you or your lawyer were in court, the judge will conclude that you knew about the order. You must also be able to comply with the order. The judge has to find that you willfully failed to comply with the court order, to be held in contempt. If your teenager does not want to visit the other parent, and refuses to go, you can’t be held in contempt for not complying with the visitation order.

    If your ex has failed to obey court orders in your case, you can hire a lawyer and bring an action for contempt. If you are accused of contempt you should hire a lawyer to defend yourself, because if you are found in contempt you can go to jail, be required to do community service and pay fines. Each time you fail to pay support, and each time you do not let the other parent see the child, are separate counts of contempt. Therefore, you can easily end up being charged with multiple counts of contempt. The court will give you time to hire a lawyer, prepare your case and defend yourself.

    The person who accuses the other person of contempt has to provide evidence that the contempt happened at a court trial. During the trial, the judge will listen to the evidence, which is usually testimony from the person who did not receive support or was unable to see the children, or someone who has knowledge that the contempt happened. If your former spouse is not complying with court orders, you need to keep a record of each violation. If you are afraid you might be charged with contempt, you need to keep records showing that you complied with the court order to the best of your abilities. If you are charged with contempt, you have the right to testify and present your own evidence about why you should not be held in contempt.

    The court can find that you were not in contempt, if you did not willfully violate a court order. If the court finds you guilty of contempt, you can be ordered to do up to 120 hours of community service, spend up to 120 hours in jail and pay a fine of up to $1,000 for each count of contempt. The court can also order you to pay your former spouse’s attorney’s fees.

    A Motion for Contempt is necessary when the judgment debtor does not comply with the judge’s order.

    At that point we will file a motion and ask a judge to hold the debtor in contempt.

    The motion for contempt asks the court to hold the debtor in contempt of court. The judge has many options, including committing the defendant into the custody of the sheriff for up to 180 days. As a result, the hearing is said to be “quasi-criminal” since the defendant’s liberty is at risk. The debtor can normally avoid all of this just by answering the questions.

    For many judgment debtors this is the point at which the situation becomes real to them. We are very likely to resolve the entire matter at this point. It seems many judgment debtors give up at this point. They are quite convinced you are serious about your debt and won’t give up. They no longer want to face the threat of jail time. So we frequently resolve matters at the motion for contempt stage.

    The Abstract
    Affecting the Debtor’s Credit Score
    Writ of Garnishment
    Post-Judgment Investigation
    Post-Judgment Written Discovery
    Post-Judgment Deposition
    Motion to Compel
    Motion for Contempt
    Arresting the Debtor
    Discovery Has No Limits
    Motion for Turnover
    Appointing a Receiver
    Writ of Execution
    Property Exempt from Execution
    Spousal Property


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    Motions for civil contempt of court (the failure to obey a court order issued for the benefit of another party) are frequently seen in family court. Civil contempt proceedings have special rules and procedures that distinguish these proceedings from other family court motions. The purpose of this tip is to provide an overview of civil contempt in family court and provide a starting point for volunteers considering or encountering a contempt motion in their family law case.

    Purpose of Contempt

    The purpose of civil contempt is to compel compliance with a court order, not to punish parties for past behavior. 1 Once a party is found in contempt, the court may impose a conditional penalty, including jail time, a fine, payment of fees, and other consequences. Examples of situations where contempt proceedings are appropriate include those in which a party has violated a parenting time schedule, failed to pay court-ordered child support or spousal maintenance, or failed to transfer a title of property.

    Preparing the paperwork

    Contempt proceedings are initiated by service of an order to show cause, 2 notice of motion and motion and accompanying affidavits upon the alleged contemptor. 3 The order to show cause must direct the alleged contempt or to appear and show cause why he or she should not be held in contempt and why the moving party should not be granted the relief requested in the motion. 4 The order to show cause and the notice of motion and motion must contain the following: 1) a reference to the specific order or judgment of the court and date of entry or filing alleged to have been violated; 2) a quotation of the specific applicable provisions ordered; and 3) the alleged failures to comply. 5 Once the proper paperwork is prepared, the attorney should submit the notice of motion and motion, affidavits and the proposed order to show cause to the assigned judicial officer. 6


    Once the order to show case is signed, the next step is to serve the contemptor with the paperwork referenced above. An order to show cause must be served directly on the alleged contemptor, not on the alleged contemptor’s attorney. 7 The person serving the documents must show the original order to the alleged contemptor and then hand the alleged contemptor copies of the order to show cause, notice of motion and motion and supporting affidavits. After service is complete the person serving the documents must complete an affidavit of service and return the original order back to the serving party for filing. (It is best practice to contemporaneously notify opposing counsel that your client is initiating contempt proceedings.)

    The Contempt Hearing

    The alleged contemptor must have to opportunity to appear and testify before the court. 8 When making a finding for contempt, the court looks at factors set out in Hopp v. Hopp. 9 Where appropriate, the court will make a finding of contempt and enter a sentence. The court will establish purge conditions that allow the contemptor to avoid the imposition of the sentence. When establishing the purge conditions, the court must determine that the contemptor has the ability to meet those conditions. 10 At the second hearing the contemptor has the opportunity to demonstrate compliance with the purge conditions. 11 Failing to comply with the purge conditions may result in confinement.

    Practice Tips

      • Take efforts to resolve the issue prior to a contempt motion. Some attorneys will attach proof of efforts to resolve the issue, such as a letter to the contemptor, to the client’s affidavit.
      • Consider alternative forms of relief. For example, a motion for compensatory parenting time may be more effective than a motion for contempt.
      • Volunteers representing clients who have received an IFP order are encouraged to use the local sheriff to serve the order to show cause.
      • Set client expectations – remind them that the purpose of contempt is not to punish the other party.
      • Come to the contempt hearing with possible purge conditions and a plan for how you want the conflict resolved.
      • Think about the consequences of incarceration. A jailed party may not be able to maintain his or her employment.
      • Contempt, particularly where confinement is concerned, is a complex area of law. All volunteers new to family law and contempt proceedings are strongly encouraged to read the relevant case law and speak with an experienced practitioner if they have questions about how these proceedings may or may not apply to specific cases.

    1 Mahady v. Mahady, 488 N.W. 2d 888, 809 (Minn. Crt. App. 1989).
    2 Minn. R. Gen. P. 309.01 allows for contempt proceedings to proceed without an order to show cause. As detailed in the comments to the 2012 amendments, “use of an order to show cause is the preferred method to commence a contempt proceeding if there is a meaningful risk that the alleged contemptor will not appear in response to the notice of motion.” For the purposes of this tip the author is assuming the moving party is using an order to show cause.
    3 Minn. R. Gen. P. 309.01(a).
    4 Minn. R. Gen. P. 309.01(b).
    5 Id.
    6 Volunteers are encouraged to contact the judicial officer’s clerk to determine the best method for submitting the materials.
    7 Minn. R. Gen. P. 309.01 (b).
    8 Minn. R. Gen. P. 309.02
    9 Hopp v. Hopp 156 N.W. 2d 212, 216-17 (Minn. 1968). For space purposes, the factors are not included in this tip; however, an understanding of the Hopp factors is required in every case. (1) the court has jurisdiction over the subject matter and the person; 2) a clear definition of the acts to be performed; notice of the acts to be performed and a reasonable time in which to comply; an application by the party seeking enforcement giving specific grounds for the complaint; 5) a hearing, after due notice, to give the nonperforming party an opportunity to show compliance or the reasons for failure; 6) a formal determination by the court of failure to comply and, if so, whether conditional confinement will aid compliance; 7) an opportunity to comply despite a good faith effort; and 8) the contemptor’s ability to gain release through compliance or a good faith effort to comply. Id.
    10 Mahady v. Mahady, 488 N.W. 2d 888, 890 (Minn. Crt. App. 1989). This is sometimes referred to as giving the contemptor the “keys to the jail.”
    11 Id.

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    How to file a contempt of court October Tip of the Month – Contempt Proceedings in Family Court

    One method of collecting child support arrears is through support contempt proceedings. The article below discusses the rules for using this method of enforcement and how to file a motion for contempt to begin collecting back child support.

    Using the Motion for Contempt to Collect Child Support

    By Howard Iken

    In family law cases, if there are children there is child support. And most states now require an order for support anytime the court considers children’s issues. But unfortunately, getting an order for child support and collecting child support are two separate jobs. A common procedure for enforcing child support is the Motion for Contempt.

    A brief description of the Motion for Contempt:

    Your old case is reopened and a Motion for Contempt is filed. The Motion is a request to the court to force someone to comply with the terms of a previous court order – such as the payment of child support. A hearing must follow the filing of the Motion, usually thirty minutes in length.

    The basic rules for a Motion for Contempt are:

    1. There must be a court order and that court order must be clear and understandable;

    The opposing party is not complying with the court order;

    You previously made some sort of gesture to encourage compliance (such as a simple letter);

  • The opposing party must have the capability to comply with the court order and is purposefully refusing to comply.
  • Many states have available self-help forms that are valid for family law cases. Among those forms you may be able to find a generic “Motion for …” that you can turn into a Motion for Contempt. In that Motion, you must say facts that lay out conditions one through five, the requirements for a Contempt Order.

    1. An order was entered on January 1st, 20__ for child support in the amount of $999 monthly. That order is attached.
    2. The Respondent is in arrears in the amount of $9999 as of the date of this Motion.
    3. A good faith letter requesting payment was mailed to the Respondent on March 1st, 20__.
    4. The Respondent has not replied to that letter.
    5. The Respondent is earning $999/week and has the present ability to comply with the order.

    After the Motion is filed, you must call the judge (or follow your local procedure) to schedule a hearing. You must also mail everyone, including the court, a Notice of the date of the hearing.

    Things the judge can do:

    • Order the immediate payment of the money.

    Send the non-complying party to jail, contingent on payment of a specified sum.

    Order liquidation or sale of assets in sufficient amount to comply with the order. You must identify existing assets and give proof to the judge.

    Suspend driver licenses or other professional licenses.

    Issue an Income Deduction Order. Another common name for this is a garnishment order. This order allows directly debit from the Respondent’s payroll check.

  • Redirect child support to be paid through a state agency, sometimes called state disbursement units.
  • Every state is slightly different so you should do more research before taking these steps. Also, many states have a child support enforcement agency that will help you enforce support. The pros and cons of these services is a topic for another day. Other options include private attorneys, and paralegal services. The main thing is to do your research, make your plan, and then move forward with your case.

    The above article is a good overview on how to file a Support Contempt motion. The following articles offer more information on child support and how to collect child support.

    A contempt application is used to seek an order from the Court imposing a punishment on a person for contempt of court.

    It is used for an application alleging a breach of a parenting order or another order such as a property order.

    Before filing a contempt application, you should consider the result you want to achieve. The remedies available from the Court range from the enforcement of an order to the punishment of a person for failure to obey an order. For example, the Court may make an order that:

    • arrangements set out in an earlier order are to resume
    • compensates a person for lost contact time
    • varies an existing order
    • puts a person on notice that if the person does not comply with an order, the person will be punished, or
    • punishes a person by way of a fine or imprisonment.

    If you don’t actually want the other party punished (eg. fined or imprisoned) for the breach, but rather want a speedy remedy to ensure the resumption of the arrangements set out in an earlier order, you may be able to file an enforcement application rather than a contempt application.

    You should only make a Contempt application if the conduct is serious enough to warrant such a serious charge. For example, if it is alleged that the conduct showed a serious disregard of the person’s obligations under an order.

    Next steps

    The making an application section has information on filing a contempt application.