Contempt of Court in Family Law Cases
Contempt of court is a legal term used to describe behaviors that obstruct the functioning of a court or undermine its authority. There are actually two types of contempt in Florida, civil and criminal. This post will deal primarily with civil contempt of court proceedings and how they can affect your family law case.
Civil contempt occurs when a party fails to comply with a court order during a civil legal proceeding. A person who failed to pay child support, for instance, or violated a visitation agreement, could be held in contempt of court. The purpose of these types of sanctions is to compel the offending party to comply with a specific court order. Contempt of court proceedings, even in a civil case, should be taken seriously, as they can come with fines and even jail time.
Grounds for Contempt of Court
There are several circumstances in a family law setting that could qualify for contempt of court proceedings. Most involve a failure to obey a court order, such as:
- Failing to pay child support;
- Refusing to pay alimony;
- Violating a child custody or visitation order;
- Failing to comply with a court order regarding division of marital assets;
- Violating court-ordered injunctions, such as restraining orders;
- Refusing to participate in court-ordered mediation or to attend parenting classes;
- Trying to conceal assets or to falsify financial records; and
- Being aggressive, disrespectful, or disruptive during court proceedings.
Any of these actions could result in a judge holding the wrongdoer in contempt of court, which in turn, can come with significant penalties.
When a judge initiates contempt of court proceedings in a family law case, he or she will be tasked with distinguishing between willful, or intentional disobedience, and non-willful disobedience. The former involves a deliberate refusal to comply with a court order, even though the person has the ability to do so. This type of intentional disregard of a court’s legal authority is taken very seriously and seen as a direct insult to the legal system. Non-willful disobedience, on the other hand, occurs when someone doesn’t comply with court orders, but does so unintentionally. Often, these violations happen because of factors beyond a person’s control, like a job loss that makes it impossible to pay child support. In these cases, courts are much more willing to be lenient with the person in violation of the court order, considering that individual’s circumstances before levying any penalties.
Clearwater Divorce Lawyer
Parties involved in a family law proceeding should do everything they can to avoid being held in contempt of court, so if a situation arises where compliance with a court order isn’t possible, it’s important for that person to seek a modification of the order as soon as possible. At Cairns Law, our experienced Clearwater divorce lawyers can provide you with advice on how to navigate these kinds of situations. Call us at 727-683-1472 to set up an initial consultation today. We are available for both evening and weekend appointments.