Contempt refers to actions that or disregard or disobey a court order, misconduct in the presence of a court, or behavior that interferes with a judge’s ability to administer justice. Individuals may be cited for being in contempt of the court if they fail to comply with a request, tamper with documents, withhold evidence, interrupt proceedings, or defy the authority of a judge. Contempt proceedings are generally categorized as civil or criminal, direct or indirect.
Civil contempt occurs when someone willfully disobeys a court order. For example, if a parent fails to pay court-ordered child support, he or she can be held in contempt of court. Civil contempt is generally indirect because it does not occur in front of the judge and there must be evidence to prove contempt.
Criminal contempt involves the obstruction of justice, or behavior that inhibits the court from carrying out its operations. This may include actions such as yelling at or threatening the judge, and is usually direct because it typically happens in front of the judge in court.
It is within a judge’s power to impose sanctions, such as a fine or jail, against people who are held in contempt. Punishment for criminal contempt is punitive, meaning courts use it to punish parties for impairing their ability to function properly. In civil contempt, the goal of punishment is to coerce the contemnor into obeying the court’s order, and he or she will be released from jail as soon as they comply. In family law, for instance, holding someone in civil contempt may be a way of enforcing child support, custody and visitation orders, or alimony.
In a divorce, if either party to a divorce violates the court ordered divorce decree, they can be held in contempt of the court. If your ex-spouse has violated any aspect of your final decree of divorce, you can file a motion for contempt of court. If you need legal help filing this motion, need assistance with a contempt case, or have any questions about contempt, contact an attorney from Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C.