A court order is a document signed by a judge requiring a party to take, or refrain from taking, specific actions. For example, a probate judge may order a bank to transfer certain account funds to a court supervised trust. Or, she may order a minor child's guardian to stop traveling with him overseas to protect his health. Court orders are commands, not requests. Therefore, violating a court order can result in serious, legal consequences.
Motion for Show Cause
Generally, enforcement of a court order begins with a party in a case filing a motion for show cause. Motions are requests to go before judges to ask for action against parties who violate court orders. The judge reviews the allegations listed in the motion, and if she believes a violation has occurred, the court schedules a date and time to rule on the matter. The moving party must have a process server, court officer, bailiff, or sheriff serve the motion and notice of hearing on the accused party.
Show Cause Hearings
Show cause hearings are special proceedings conducted by judges when court orders are disobeyed. Judges may enforce their orders by giving violating parties second chances to comply. If parties continue to be uncooperative, or if the judge determines it is appropriate, he can go so far as to send the party to jail to enforce his order. It is important to appear at show cause hearings. Generally, judges issue bench warrants for arrests against parties who fail to appear.
Contempt of Court
Judges can hold parties in civil contempt for violating court orders and hold the violating party in jail until he complies with the order. The judge can also force the party to pay the costs of any damages his violation caused. The case may be referred to the local prosecuting attorney for more serious criminal contempt of court charges. Michigan penalties for criminal contempt include up to 93 days in jail, probation, fines, and a criminal record.