Contempt in Family Law

Do you suspect that your ex-spouse is violating a court order or have you been accused of contempt of court? Either way, you might want to discuss your court case with an experienced family lawyer. At the Law Office of Cherish Om, I am committed to offering relentless representation and compassionate counsel to your family law case. Contact my office now to schedule an initial consultation

Ending a marriage is often an emotionally charged process fraught with frustration and tension. When divorcing spouses are not happy with the outcome they received in court, they are less likely to comply with the orders issued by the court. However, the court system in California requires compliance with court orders regarding property division, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, and other family law matters.

Following orders issued by family courts is not optional – it is a legal requirement. Failure to comply with the rules could result in a “contempt of court” proceeding and potential penalties. As a family law attorney at the Law Office of Cherish Om, I am ready to assist you with all your concerns regarding contempt in family law. Whether you are considering filing a contempt motion or need help defending yourself against a contempt action, I can help.

If the other party is not following a court order issued by a family court or you face accusations of contempt of court, contact the Law Office of Cherish Om. I can offer you the guidance and expertise you need to go through this stressful time with confidence. It is my job to look out for your best interests and fight for a favorable outcome in your contempt case.

What Is Contempt Of Court?

Contempt of court, also referred to as simply “contempt,” is a term used when someone willfully disobeys a court order or engages in any form of conduct that disrespects or disrupts court proceedings.

Types of Contempt

Contempt in family law is divided into two broad categories:

  1. Ex facie (indirect) contempt. This type of contempt refers to willful disobedience committed outside of the court. The most common example of ex facie contempt is a party’s failure to follow a court order after the court proceedings are complete.
  2. In facie (direct) contempt. In facie contempt is the exact opposite of ex facie contempt because it takes place in the court and usually in the presence of a judge. When a party engages in any form of willful disobedience in the courtroom, including disrespecting the judge, insulting the court, or disregarding court rules, the judge will likely issue a warning before the finding of contempt.

Thus, contempt of court may occur during family court proceedings or after a marital settlement or final judgment has been put in place.

Examples Of Contempt in Family Law

Several situations and actions can precipitate contempt proceedings The behaviors that are commonly associated with contempt in family law include:

  • Failing or refusing to pay court-ordered child support
  • Not making spousal support (alimony) payments
  • Refusing to allow the other parent to spend time with the child as scheduled in the court-ordered parenting plan
  • Failing or refusing to return a child to the other parent after visitation
  • Not delivering assets to the other party as ordered in a marital settlement or final judgment

A conviction for contempt in family law can result in severe penalties, including possible jail time, which is why it is essential to treat any allegations of contempt seriously.

Elements Necessary For Proving Contempt

In California, filing a contempt action comes with several requirements. If you suspect that your former partner violated a family court order, you must fill out an Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Contempt form and submit it to the court. According to the official California Courts website, the form is known as FL-410. Filing this form is a requirement when making allegations of contempt of court.

Another requirement is that you must be able to prove the elements of contempt in family law. As the accusing party, you have the burden to establish all of the following:

  1. Existence of the order. There is a valid court order that the accused party has an obligation to follow.
  2. Knowledge of the order. The accused party has knowledge of the court order.
  3. Contempt. The accused party willfully disobeyed or intentionally violated the order (in other words, the violation did not occur by accident or negligence).

Proving contempt of court requires knowledge of the law and a detail-oriented approach. A skilled lawyer can help you navigate the legal system and the complex processes involved in filing a contempt action and proving that the other party willfully failed to follow a court order.

When Can You File For Contempt?

In California, individuals can file for contempt of court any time someone fails to comply with a family court order. After receiving a contempt action, the court will generally schedule a contempt hearing date where both the accusing party and the accused will have an opportunity to present their arguments.

If the accuser can successfully prove that the other party violated a court order and their actions were “willful,” the court will rule in their favor and hold the accused in contempt of court. Generally, contempt actions in California carry a two-year statute of limitations, which means the accuser has two years from the date the alleged contempt took place to initiate legal action (California Code of Civil Procedure 1218.5). The only exception to the rule applies to violations of spousal support and child support orders, which carry a three-year statute of limitations.

Contempt in Family Law FAQ

Many of the questions people ask lawyers about contempt of court repeat themselves. The FAQ section below provides answers to some of these questions to offer you some insight into the process.

  • What are common types of contempt of court in family law?

There are two types of contempt in family law: ex-facie and in-facie. The former generally refers to the failure to follow court orders (e.g., spousal support or child support orders), while the latter occurs in the presence of the judge (e.g., engaging in disrespectful behaviors in the courtroom or disregarding the process of a court).

  • What are the rights of the contemnor? 

A contemnor, a legal term used to describe a person who has been charged with contempt of court, has the same rights as individuals facing charges for criminal offenses, including the right to counsel. The only exception is that people charged with civil contempt do not have an absolute right to a jury trial pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure 1217. Contemnors always have the right against self-incrimination guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

  • What if a person doesn’t have the ability to comply?

If a person believes that an order issued by a court is unfavorable or unfair, they can file a Motion for Consideration or a Notice of Appeal, both of which come with statutory time limits. If the person does not have the ability to comply with a court order, asking the court to reconsider or appeal the judge’s decision may result in a more favorable order.

  • What is the punishment for contempt of family court?

Many individuals do not understand what the consequences of contempt of court in family law are. In California, the party found in contempt of court is subject to penalties that vary depending on the severity of the violation. The possible punishment may include jail time, fines, community service, and payment of past-due support, among others. Under California Code of Civil Procedure 1218(c), fines for contempt of court cannot exceed $1,000 per a single act of contempt while the jail time cannot exceed more than five days.

The Law Office of Cherish Om: Trusted Contempt in Family Law Lawyer in Watsonville, California

Whether you are thinking of filing a contempt action or facing the possibility of being found in contempt of court, contact the Law Office of Cherish Om. I understand that this situation can be stressful and challenging, and it is my job to make your life easier. I can explain your rights and help navigate the process of holding someone in contempt of court, or, if you are the one being accused, help you explore your contempt charges and defense options. Reach out today to secure top-tier legal advice from a compassionate and dedicated law firm.

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