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What Is Contempt of Court?

Gavel Contempt of Court

Contempt of court, which is often simply referred to as contempt, is the word used for when someone disobeys an order of the court. The term is also used for certain conduct that could obstruct the administration of justice in the court. According to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 70, if someone fails to perform a specific action according to the judgment made by a court, they can be charged with contempt.

The purpose of contempt is to help ensure that the judgments of the court, and their dignity, are being upheld and are uninterrupted. The orders are in place to ensure that the court’s decisions are being followed. When someone fails to follow those orders, they are in contempt of the court and can be punished for it.

According to Rule 92 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, civil contempt can be used to compel compliance with court orders or to compensate someone for losses sustained because the other party did not comply with the order from the court.

When Orders Are Not Being Followed

In some cases, you may feel that you are being deprived of your rights when it comes to your divorce case. Maybe you are not receiving the spousal support you were promised. Maybe your ex is not paying the child support they were ordered to pay. There could be any number of types of orders that an ex is not complying with and that are causing you distress. Perhaps the orders allow you to see your kids on certain days or weeks, but your ex is being difficult and not giving you access.

Even if their failure to live up to the requirements of the order is not causing you harm or loss right now, it’s often a good idea to still get it taken care of as soon as possible. Otherwise, the other party is likely to continue skirting the law, assuming that you won’t say anything about it. This has the potential to set a bad precedent.

Do you have to contact the court immediately? No, you don’t. If someone is not complying with a certain court order, it is often a better idea to talk with them about it first to determine the reason. Is it something temporary that will change next month? In some cases, it might be a simple matter of forgetting or making a mistake. It doesn’t make sense to get someone in trouble just because of a one-time mistake.

Bringing contempt charges against someone is serious. Instead, even if you feel they are violating the orders on purpose, consider having your attorney contact them. Get in touch with your lawyer, let them know what’s happening. They can let you know the best course of action to follow. Often, simply having your attorney send a letter to the other party will be all you need to do to get things back on track.

Of course, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, you have no other choice but to have the other party be held contempt of the court. They aren’t meeting their obligations and they aren’t responding when you are trying to get them to make things right. If that’s the case, you should get in touch with an attorney to see the best ways to proceed.

Something to Keep in Mind

The only way someone can be in contempt of court is if there is a court order in effect. If the court order has ended, such as an order for temporary spousal support, it can’t be enforced. Before trying to accuse someone of violating an order, you need to be sure that the order was part of the divorce and that it is still in effect.

When You Can’t Follow the Orders

What if you are the person who is on the other end of those orders, and you are having trouble complying with them for one reason or another? Maybe you have lost your job and you can’t pay as much for child support. Perhaps you lost your place to live, so you are having trouble keeping up with your end of the parenting agreement.

Any number of things could have happened that are causing problems in your life and that could be disrupting the normal routine. The worst thing you can do is nothing. If you don’t address the problem when you can’t comply with the terms of the court orders, chances are good that it’s only going to get worse. If you are held in contempt, you could have to pay fines, and, in some cases, you could even have to spend some time in jail.

The best thing to do is to reach out to the other side and let them know what’s happening. Do your best to meet the orders but keep them apprised of the situation when you can’t. You should also consult with an attorney to ensure you have help to avoid being found guilty of contempt.

What Could Happen to Someone Who Is in Contempt?

As mentioned, you could face fines for not following court orders. You could also face some time in jail. The cost and the duration of jail time can vary from one area to another and for different types of offenses. In some cases, the penalties can be quite severe. You might even be required to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees and court costs.

Regardless, these are things you want to avoid. They have the potential to upend your life and make it even more difficult. If you had a problem paying child support before, things are going to be even harder when you have fines to pay on top of it all.

Talk with an Attorney

It doesn’t matter which side of the coin you are on when it comes to contempt of court. The best thing to do is make sure that you have representation that has your back and that can provide you with the legal advice you need.

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