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  • Writer's pictureAlan Jacobs

Consequences of Contempt Of Court

A motion for contempt is a fairly common occurrence in divorce proceedings. Any time an individual violates a court order they risk being held in contempt. Contempt of court consequences can include both civil and criminal penalties depending on the infraction, but in some cases can be quite severe.

Definition Of Contempt

To be in contempt of court, it must be proven that a person willfully or intentionally violated their court order. The accuser must prove that the accused party knew about the order, knowingly violated the conditions despite having the ability to comply, and lacks any reasonable excuse for the violation.

The burden of proof lies with the accuser so compiling evidence prior to filing for a motion for contempt is crucial.

Contempt Of Court Consequences

Depending on the infraction, contempt of court consequences can include fines, compensatory visitation, a modification to the custody arrangement, and in some instances even jail time.

In most cases, if someone is held in contempt, the court will first give them the opportunity to make amends for the violation. This could include repaying owed child support or allowing the opposing party to have additional parenting time for failing to comply with a visitation schedule. If those make-up requirements are met, the court is unlikely to enforce any additional contempt of court punishment since the entire objective of a contempt action is to seek compliance. If an issue continues, such as repeatedly withholding visitation, a court can modify the custody order.

Contempt of court punishment can include jail time, but that is generally rare. The entire point of civil contempt was originally to coerce compliance rather than punish with confinement. More times than not, the possibility of jail time is enough to convince the offending party to comply with the order so additional punishment is not necessary.

Contempt of court consequences can include additional damages as courts will issue sanctions to help cover the losses incurred from the contempt action.

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