Contempt of Court
Violation of a divorce court’s orders, including the requirements of a separation agreement incorporated into a decree of dissolution of marriage, may result in a contempt citation ordering an alleged violator to show cause why he or she should not be found in contempt of court and be subject to various sanctions and penalties. If the court issues a contempt citation against a party, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether the party should be found in contempt and what sanctions and penalties, if any, should be ordered. Dymond • Reagor assists our clients in both filing motions for contempt against alleged violators and in defending against such claims.
What’s the Difference Between Remedial Contempt and Punitive Contempt?
An alleged violator may be faced with claims for remedial contempt, punitive contempt or both. The difference between the two types of contempt is in what must be proven against the alleged violator in order for the court to find him or her in contempt as well as the sanctions the court is allowed to impose if the violator is found in contempt.
The goal of remedial contempt sanctions is to force compliance with a lawful order or to compel performance of an act within the person’s power or present ability to perform. To prove remedial contempt, it must be shown by a preponderance of the evidence that there was an order requiring some payment be made or act be done, that the alleged violator knew about the order, disobeyed or resisted the order but has the “present ability” to pay or perform the act.
The goal of punitive contempt is to punish a violator for conduct that is offensive to the authority and dignity of the court. To prove punitive contempt, it must be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that there was an order requiring some payment be made or act be done, that the alleged violator knew about the order, has or had the ability to pay or perform the act but willfully refused to comply with the court’s order.
What are the Potential Penalties for Contempt of Court?
If you are found in remedial contempt of court, the judge can assess fines and attorney’s fees against you and put you in jail until you agree to pay or perform the act which you have the ability to do. If you are found in punitive contempt of court, the judge can punish you with fines, a fixed sentence of imprisonment, or both. In remedial contempt, you essentially have the keys to let yourself out of jail by doing something you have the ability to do, such as using money that exists in your checking account to pay child support. In punitive contempt, you are being punished and can’t let yourself out of jail even if you do what was initially ordered.