Contempt of Court in Family Law

Contempt is conduct that obstructs a court order (or court proceeding). A contempt of court is the willful and intentional violation of a court order. In family law, parties are often held in contempt due to failure to make or follow up with support payments (child support or alimony) or due to the failure to comply with specific instructions set out by the court in a family law order (custody, access, etc.).

Willful vs. Non-willful Disobedience

In order to be found in contempt of court, there must be proof of willful disregard to a court order. This means the party was aware of the court order, had no reason to disobey the specifics of the order and chose not to.

Non-willful contempt is the opposite. Non-willful disobedience most often happens when someone is unable to obey the specifics of the court order due to circumstances beyond their control.

Remedies for Contempt of Court

Being found in contempt of a court order is serious, and sometimes the sanctions can be severe. Depending on the nature of the violation, sanctions may include:

  • Wage garnishment
  • Fines (or payment of attorney’s fees)
  • Judgments
  • Modifications to the original parenting plan

Why is a Contempt Important?

When one or both parents violate a court order, it can create an environment of uncertainty for children and can complicate a family’s schedule and normal routine.

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