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It is a common misconception that a court may hold a party in contempt only if he or she fails to make child support payments. In actuality, contempt and enforcement apply to many other types of court orders. The term “contempt” refers to a party refusing to obey an order from a judge.

There are two types of contempt:

  • Civil
  • Criminal

Civil contempt applies when the court wants to compel a party to obey the order. For example, you’ve been ordered to pay child support each month, and you’ve missed three months of payments. The court can hold you in civil contempt and order you to make those payments.

Criminal Contempt

Criminal contempt, instead, applies to punish a party, as opposed to compelling him or her to obey the order. There are two types of criminal contempt: 1) direct, and 2) indirect. Direct criminal contempt is when the act is committed in front of the court (i.e., the judge asked you repeatedly to stop yelling during a hearing, and you continued to do so).

Indirect Criminal Contempt

Indirect criminal contempt is when the act is not committed in front of the court, but at a distance under circumstances that tend to degrade the court or the judge. For example, a parent is ordered by the judge to complete a child’s passport application to go on an important trip with the other parent. The parent does not obey the court’s order, and the child misses the trip. Civil contempt will not work under this scenario because the child already missed the trip, and that trip will not be happening again. So, the parent’s opportunity to remedy the problem and obey the order no longer exists.

Both civil and criminal contempt may result in fines or in incarceration. However, in some cases, such as property and debt division, contempt may not an option. In those cases, the court still has other avenues; it may still enforce the order, without contempt, and require the party to comply.

Going through the legal process to obtain an order from the court, and then having the other party refuse to comply, can be frustrating and discouraging. At Strategic Family Attorney, P.A., we aim to take the resentment off your shoulders and obtain everything you are entitled to under your previous court orders. Contact us for a consultation.

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