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Contempt of Court

March 6th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Do you remember when you were young and were disciplined for disrespectful behavior? The lessons about respect, especially respect toward authority figures, are often an important part of growing up. However, those lessons do not end with childhood. Actually, in a court setting, acts of disrespect are not taken lightly and the court does not always hesitate to dispense disciplinary measures to deal with such behavior.

In the court setting, engaging in behavior that is disrespectful to the court is called being in contempt of court. Actually, contempt of court is also the name of the order issued by the judge if he finds that a person has engaged in a disrespectful manner. Entering an order of contempt of court allows a judge to impose a punishment, such as a fine or jail time. If the order is entered, a judge could impose the punishment immediately, meaning the offender could be taken to a jail cell within minutes of the order. However, once the offender decides to comply with the court, then they are often released.

There are two categories of behavior that could lead to an order of contempt of court. These categories are Direct Contempt and Indirect Contempt. Direct Contempt occurs in front of the judge and can include disrupting proceedings and/or disrespecting the judge. In this situation, a judge will advise the offender of their behavior, and if the offender continues on their course, than a judge could enter an order of contempt of court. Indirect Contempt involves disobeying a prior court order. For example, in a divorce case, if a judge enters a court order regarding the paying of spousal support, and the obligated spouse does not pay the amount, this could result in an order for contempt of court. In the case of Indirect Contempt, the party in the divorce case who was owed the spousal support can actually file a motion with the court requesting an order of contempt of court. In the situation where a motion has been filed, this will likely lead to a hearing, where both sides can present their case. At the close of the hearing, the judge will decide whether or not the accused was in contempt of court, and issue the order accordingly.

Contempt of Court can be considered either a criminal or civil offense. Civil contempt typically applies in the cases of disobeying an order, while criminal contempt is typically ordered for disruption or disrespect to the judge. However, in either case, certain elements must be present for a judge to legally enter their order. These elements include presence of an order from the court, knowledge of the order, and ability to obey the order, and a failure to obey. If these elements exist, then a judge can find the offender in contempt.

If you are looking to file a motion, or simply want to learn more about your state courts, try visiting CourtReference.com.  This site offers descriptions of courts, an online directory to locate courts, and other court resources including access to online records.  Where courts offer online records, you may even be able to review a court record with an order for contempt of court.

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Tags: Courtreference.com

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Brenda // Apr 28, 2009 at 5:49 am

    I am very thankful that things were explained so simply. I am representing myself in divorce and had questions regarding how to pursue contempt of court charges against my husband and now feel I have a handle on how to proceed. Thank you!!

  • 2 Kathy // Oct 23, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    My husband is in comtemp of court from the divorce proceedings. I took him to court and the judge upheld the agreement in the dissolution of marriage. He composed several pages stating the obligations of my previous husband, but my attorney led me to understand that it is unlikely it will be enforced. If that is the case, what is the purpose of the legal system?

  • 3 Sara // Dec 22, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    OK I have a question Can a judge find someone in contempt regsrdless when contemptous act was commited. My ex terminated my maintenance(that was ordered by the court) because he assumed I was getting paid extra, I tried prooving but he didnt believe me, so I filed for COntempt Motion. Judge did not find him in contempt for terminating my maintenance because he was not aware of the exact salary, but judge found him in contempt of order after the motion of contempt was served upon him because now he knew for sure. My ex claims that because there was no contempt at the time of temrinating the maintenance now I served him and caused contempt. I am arguing that judge can find a party in contempt regardless when the act was commited. Do youknow any case law that support this? thanks

  • 4 Matt bradley // Oct 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Can i get contempt of court for not showing up due to death of my child a week earlier?

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