What Is Contempt of Court in Family Law? 

In the context of family law, what is contempt of court? What constitutes a constructive finding of contempt? How do constructive findings of contempt differ from actual findings? And what are the precautions to take to avoid being charged with contempt? All these questions should be addressed before seeking court-ordered action in your case. Read on to learn more. If you think you have been accused of contempt of court in a family law case, read on.

(Family Law attorney in Missoula MT at S. DeBoer Attorney at Law is committed to helping you face your family legal matters with expert legal assistance.)

Civil contempt 

Filing a civil contempt of court action against an ex-spouse is very similar to filing for divorce. In both instances, you must serve your ex with official notice of the hearing and provide any relevant documentation. A court will not entertain a contempt case if there is not enough evidence to justify the violation. To avoid this scenario, consult an experienced divorce attorney who focuses on family law and matrimonial law issues. 

If you suspect that your ex-spouse is not complying with the parenting plan agreed upon in your divorce case, send him or her a letter explaining your reasoning for the action. It is crucial to show the offending party that you are willing to go to court if necessary. A letter should also include a deadline by which the offending party must comply with the court order. The letter should also state the remedies available to you in the event of contempt. 

Constructive findings of contempt 

A constructive finding of contempt of court in family law is used to hold one party in contempt for not complying with an order of the court. The court holds a hearing to consider the evidence that has been provided regarding the alleged violation. The responding party may also present evidence to avoid contempt. In some instances, parents can be held in contempt for failing to comply with an order of the court. 

If a parent does not abide by a parenting time or child support order, the court can impose a fine or jail term. However, this type of contempt is not intended to punish past conduct, but rather to compel future compliance. Typically, the punishment is monetary, and the party can be required to pay attorney’s fees and costs to comply. In some instances, a parent may be ordered to pay child support or alimony if they fail to abide by the order. 

Precautions to avoid a contempt charge in family law 

If you receive a motion for contempt in a family law case, it’s vital to take the proper precautions to avoid a contempt charge. First, you must make sure you are served with the court’s alleged contempt papers at least 20 days before your advisement hearing. In some cases, the family law court will also issue an alias summons if you fail to appear at the hearing. Although you should serve the alias summons along with the original papers, most people do not serve these papers in the first place. That’s OK; the courts recognize this and make allowances for it. 

A contempt charge in family law is most commonly issued when a spouse fails to pay child support or comply with parenting time orders. Although most contempt charges in family law are constructive, they still have a significant impact on the parties involved. It’s easier to receive forgiveness than permission, and courts that do not punish the violators are effectively forgiving the behavior. The parties in a divorce may not want to comply with the court’s orders, but the failure to do so could result in contempt charges.