When many people hear the term “contempt of court,” they picture someone standing up and threatening or swearing at the judge. That’s criminal contempt of court, and it can get you tossed behind bars or hit with a hefty fine. It certainly won’t help your case.
Neither will civil contempt of court, which usually involves failure to comply with a court order. Often, this happens during divorce and custody proceedings because one party disagrees with a court order. Let’s look at the most common orders that people in family law proceedings fail to follow.
Restraining and protective orders
Judges take these issues very seriously because someone’s safety (or at least their sense of safety) is often at stake. If someone has gotten a protective order against you, follow it — no matter how much you disagree with it. If you don’t, you could face criminal charges in addition to being in contempt of court.
People can end up in contempt of court for not complying with a custody order long after their divorce is finalized. Any attempt to interfere with your co-parent’s rights as detailed in your custody order is considered contempt of court. If you believe you deserve more parenting time, violating your custody order is only going to hurt your chances of getting it.
You could even find yourself under arrest – particularly if you take a child and don’t return them, take them across state lines and/or don’t notify your co-parent where you’ve gone with your child. Even if someone in your family – say a child’s grandparent – violates the custody order, you could be the one who has to answer for it.
Divorcing spouses are often ordered to turn over various assets to one another. If you fail to do that, you could be held in contempt. The same is true if you fail to pay child or spousal support.
The more aspects of your divorce you and your spouse can work out together, without asking a judge to make the decisions, the more likely you’ll be to comply with the final orders. However, no matter how much you disagree with an order, failing to comply with it is never the right solution. With legal guidance, you can explain any extenuating circumstances or present a strong case against a family court order you believe needs to be modified.