The court is responsible for controlling the conduct that occurs within its doors, but also has to deal with issues outside of the courtroom when it comes to family matters.
It is typical for a contempt motion to be made in a family law case when one party has violated an order of the court, such as an order to pay child support, spousal maintenance, or a parenting time arrangement.
The contempt rules are rather strict, in an effort to motivate individuals to comply with court orders. A particular action (or inaction) may constitute contempt if the following criteria are met:
- The court must have jurisdiction over the case in order to file a motion; and
- It must be properly alleged by the non-offending party that offending party has violated the directive of the judge.
When a contempt motion is filed against a litigant, that person must show up to a hearing and prove that they did comply with the court order, or have an adequate explanation as to why they violated it. An “Order to Show Cause” mandates such an appearance.
If the individual is found in contempt of court, a conditional penalty may be handed down by the judge. Sanctions can include fines, fees, transfer of property, jail time, or any penalty that the court deems appropriate.