Family law courts deal with domestic household issues between families, and cases like divorce, domestic abuse and child custody are the most common examples. This doesn’t only involve parents and children, but if you have maids and servants living in the same household, issues revolving them would also go to family law court.
There are many different things that come into play with courts and legal matters, and one of the most important factors is contempt of court. Let’s get into details.
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What is Contempt of Court in Family Law?
In family law, contempt of court is widely referred to as breaking the law and violating the court order. If the court has ordered a person to do something specific, and they refuse or don’t do it, they can be charged with contempt of court.
In simple words, contempt of court in family law is when a person is aware of the court order and willfully chooses to ignore or disobey it.
Contempt has two types: criminal contempt and civil contempt. Activities that one may ordinarily connect with the expression ‘contempt of court’, for example, a someone causing interruption in the court, shouting at the appointed authority, or refusing to testify in front of the jury etc. would regularly constitute criminal contempt of court.
Civil Contempt of Court
Civil contempt of court regularly happens when somebody neglects to obey a request from the court, causing harm to another person or their property. For instance, inability to pay court requested child support is a common example. Normally, the oppressed party, for example, the parent who has not yet received court ordered child support is well within their rights to file a civil contempt of court in family law.
Contempt of Court Examples
In family law, the most common examples of contempt of court are:
- Violating a restraining order
- Not paying child support that that has been ordered
- Not paying spousal support that that has been ordered
- Refusing to allow the other parent visitation as ordered in the parenting plan
- Failure to return the child to the other parent at the end of the visitation period
Proving Contempt of Court
Not everyone can charge the other party with contempt of court because they apparently broke a court order. To prove contempt of court, there are certain conditions, and all of these must be true.
- There is a valid court order in effect
- The other person knows about the court order
- The facts show a plain violation of the order
- You have given the person notice of the contempt hearing and a chance to be heard
- Contempt is an appropriate remedy for the violation
If the contempt is for a parenting plan violation, you must also prove one of these:
- the violation was in bad faith
- the person violating the parenting plan engaged in intentional misconduct
- past sanctions have not led to the person obeying the order
Punishment for Contempt of Court in Family Court
When all of the above stated are true in cases, the specific person is charged with contempt of court. Now they will be given punishment based on the law and the extent of the violation.
Usually the punishment for criminal contempt of court is to send the violator to prison for a specific amount of years if it’s an extreme case of contempt of court. In other scenarios, a hefty fine is to be paid to the court as punishment.
In civil and family cases, the punishment isn’t as severe, of course on the condition that the person obeys all court orders in the future.
Here, the punishment may be that the violator is stripped of visitation benefits or that he has to pay the attorney fees of the other parent as well. Moreover, in some cases, custody of the child is also given to the other parent then after modifying the court order.
The procedure includes having to charge the other person with contempt of court by filing a motion. Then the date for the hearing is finalized, which has to be attempted by both parties: moving party and the defendant. While some courts allow live testimony, some don’t. During the hearing, both parties are given the chance to present evidence against each other.
The moving party may go forward that the defendant was aware of the order, had enough time for the court hearing and still violated the order. Common defense to such claims is always that the court order wasn’t in effect or that it was ambiguous or that the defendant did obey the material terms of the order.
When both stances are argued, the judge examines the evidence and facts of the case and then gives a final ruling. If the moving party wins, the defendant is rightfully punished for breaking the court order in the first place.
Contempt of Court Child Custody Penalties
In a child custody case, if a person is charged with contempt of court, the judge penalizes them for breaking the court order. The punishment can vary; here are the common examples.
- Compensatory visitation
- Paying attorney fees of the other parent too
- In severe cases, the child custody can be transferred to the other parent
- Jailtime- but that happens very rarely in child custody cases
Contempt of court is punishable by law, whether it be a criminal or civil case. Family courts fall in the category of civil cases and here contempt of court means violating or disobeying the court order willingly.
Family law cases revolve around domestic household issues like child custody and divorce, and if a person violates the court order, they could be stripped of certain privileges which may tip the case into the opponent’s side. Whatever the case, make sure you never miss a hearing or never disobey the court order because it could invite so many consequences for you, making the case and your life so much more difficult.