What is Contempt of Court in Family Law? - Bineham & Gillen

Family LawWhat is Contempt of Court in Family Law?

May 20, 2021by James Gillen

You may have heard the phrase “contempt of court” on your favorite legal drama or daytime judge show – but you may not understand what contempt of court, or more commonly referred to as contempt, means. When someone is found to be in contempt, they have displayed disruptive or disrespectful behavior in court or deliberately disobeyed court orders. Essentially, contempt of court is a disciplinary tool to ensure proceedings and rulings are respected and upheld.

What does it mean when someone is in contempt of court in family law?

Family law cases include matters of divorce, child support and child custody. These sensitive cases are difficult enough without your ex-partner failing to comply with court orders. Contempt in family law typically deals with disobeying court orders (as opposed to disruptive behavior). There are many actions or failure of actions that could result in a party to be held in contempt, such as the following:

  • Failure to pay child support
  • Failure to pay spousal support
  • Violation of a restraining order
  • Violation of child custody or visitation orders
  • Failure to obey court-ordered property division
  • Failure to attain employment to pay child support

What penalties does someone face if they are in contempt of court?

Punishment of contempt varies on the judge and the severity of the offense. In the state of Texas, a judge can order the contempt party to pay a fine, spend time in the county jail or both. Sometimes, a judge may suspend the jail sentence. If this occurs, the judge may impose any of the following penalties:

  • Community service
  • Revoke visitation rights
  • Court-ordered counseling
  • Payment of attorney’s fees or court costs

Can I request for my ex-partner to be held in contempt in my family law case?

In short, yes. If you believe the other party in your child support, child custody or divorce hearing has failed to obey court orders, you can petition to have them held in contempt. To do so, you must prove specific details of your case. You must first prove there was an official court order that the other party did not obey. You must also prove they were aware of and intentionally disregarded the official court order. To ensure the contempt process is properly carried out, hire an experienced family law attorneys like Bineham and Gillen.