Reasons for Contempt in Divorce Court

By Brenna Davis

Contempt occurs when a person fails to comply with a court order. Settlement agreements signed by a judge, standardized court discovery forms, judicial orders and direct requests by a judge can all constitute court orders. Contempt is a serious charge that can subject you to fines and jail time. In divorce proceedings, contempt can be used against you. For example, a previous failure to comply with a custody order may be used as evidence that you are unwilling to protect your child's best interests.

Contempt occurs when a person fails to comply with a court order. Settlement agreements signed by a judge, standardized court discovery forms, judicial orders and direct requests by a judge can all constitute court orders. Contempt is a serious charge that can subject you to fines and jail time. In divorce proceedings, contempt can be used against you. For example, a previous failure to comply with a custody order may be used as evidence that you are unwilling to protect your child's best interests.

Discovery Requests

During divorce and child custody proceedings, each party may send the other discovery requests, such as interrogatories and notices to produce. You must answer these requests to the best of your ability. If you fail to adequately answer discovery requests after a lengthy period of time, or fail to produce documents the judge has requested, you may be held in contempt.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Courtroom Outbursts

Divorce proceedings tend to be emotionally charged and parties to a divorce may have difficulty controlling their emotions. Judges are unlikely to tolerate outbursts in a courtroom. A mild outburst will generally get you a warning, but if you do it again, you may be held in contempt. Extreme outbursts, such as yelling at the other party, can immediately land you in contempt of court. Some judges also have rules about cell phones ringing in court and may charge a party with contempt if her cell phone rings aloud multiple times.

Custody Orders

You must obey all custody orders issued by the court, including settlement agreements, temporary custody orders and final custody orders. Custodial interference can constitute contempt of court and is a crime in its own right in several states. This charge can also interfere with your visitation or custodial rights. Many states consider a parent's willingness to maintain their child's relationship with the other parent when making custody decisions; thus, a parent who has interfered with custody is typically viewed with skepticism.

Financial Issues

Failure to turn over property to your spouse when you have been ordered to do so may constitute contempt. Failing to pay child support is also a form of contempt. Judges may be more lenient with financial forms of contempt if you can show the failure to pay was due to financial hardship. However, if you are experiencing a hardship, you should notify the court prior to the time the payment is due to avoid charges of contempt.

Restraining Orders

If there is a protective or restraining order in your case, violating it may constitute contempt. Violating a restraining order is frequently its own crime. If you're not sure how to avoid violating your restraining order, consult an attorney.

Protections

You cannot be held in contempt of court if you did not know an order existed or did not receive discovery requests. You may, however, be required to explain how you did not receive the order to the judge. Violating an order with an unclear meaning is also not contempt. For example, if your custody agreement says that you have your child every fifth weekend, but it was difficult to determine if the weekend you kept the child was the fifth or first weekend, this would not be contempt.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to File Contempt Papers for a Custody Order in Pennsylvania

References

Related articles

Penalties For Divorce Perjury in Georgia

Intentionally lying under oath is a crime, and the penalties for divorce perjury are the same as the penalties for any other form of perjury in the state of Georgia. A person convicted of perjury in Georgia faces a fine of up to $1,000, a sentence of one to 10 years in prison, or both. It is rare that perjury committed during a divorce trial results in criminal prosecution. However, the strongest penalty for lying in during divorce proceedings may be the irreparable damage you do to your case.

Family Law on Perjury for Sworn Statement

When the pressure's on and you feel like you have a lot to lose, it might be tempting to fib a little. This is particularly true in divorce litigation when so much is at stake – assets you've spent years working for or custody of your children. If you make a misstatement, however, you open yourself up to charges of perjury. This is the legal term for lying under oath, either in writing or on the witness stand at trial.

How to Enforce a Breach of Contract in a Divorce

In the process of getting your divorce, you and your ex-spouse may have made an agreement – sometimes called a marital settlement agreement – to address the specifics of your separation. A marital settlement agreement is a contract and, like any contract, you have the right to enforce it if your ex-spouse breaches it.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Post Divorce Contempt Issues

Contempt of court occurs when a person subject to a court order willfully fails to comply with the judge's ruling. Like ...

If a Party to a Divorce in California Violates a Court Order: Can They Be Held Accountable?

California courts, like the courts in all states, have the power to issue orders to the parties in a lawsuit, including ...

Can You Go to Jail for Not Making Child Support Payments?

If you have been ordered to pay child support, perhaps as part of a divorce, then nonpayment can result in stiff ...

How to Collect Child Support With a Divorce Decree in Massachusetts

Being the custodial parent of a child after a divorce is no easy task. Matters can become even more complicated if the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED