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What Does Contempt of Court Mean?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “contempt of court” in a courtroom drama, usually involving a witness in a criminal case who is on the stand. However, contempt charges don’t solely apply to criminal cases.  In fact, civil contempt of court is something that a party to a divorce or other family case could end up being charged with.  Whether you are facing a civil contempt charge or you want to bring one against someone involved in your family law case, speak to an experienced family lawyer about your options.

What Does Contempt of Court Mean?

Any behavior that is in opposition to or defiant of the court’s authority is considered contempt.  Any individual including an attorney can be charged with contempt of court.  Usually, in family law cases, civil contempt means one party failed to perform an action ordered by the court.  If, for example, one parent refuses to pay court ordered child support, this parent can be held in contempt of court.  A parent who does not allow another parent to have visitation on the specified days and times of a visitation order can also be held in contempt of court.

Indirect vs. Direct Contempt

Direct contempt happens inside the court room usually with a judge present.  Refusing to respond to an attorney or the judge while under oath, for example, is direct contempt.  Disrespect directed at the judge is another example of this type of contempt.

Indirect contempt, on the other hand is more common and can happen outside of the courtroom.  The intention behind an indirect contempt action is to mock, belittle or otherwise delay proceedings in court.  Withholding evidence that is part of a case, for example, can be indirect contempt of court.  Failing to follow the provisions of a parenting or visitation plan or not paying child support in accordance with a court order are also considered indirect contempt actions.

The Contempt Citation

In Colorado family court cases, one person may file a contempt citation against the other party in the case.  When a contempt citation is filed against someone, the judge is being asked to penalize that person because the petitioner believes he or she violated at least one provision of a court order.  To take a closer look at the matter, the court then issues a citation and order that requires the alleged party to appear in court to explain why the court should not hold him or her in contempt.  If that person doesn’t appear to respond the citation, the court can issue a warrant for their arrest.

During the citation hearing, the burden of proof rests on the party who filed the order.  Should the judge find that the person has willfully violated an order or the court, punishment may include a monetary fine, jail time, or both.  A judge may suspend a punishment to give the person a chance to comply with conditions imposed at the hearing, such as complying with the order he or she is in contempt of.  In this situation, having the assistance of a child custody lawyer is invaluable as he or she can help you in court.

Contempt Must be Taken Seriously

Contempt charges are a serious matter.  When a party in a case is found to have willfully violated and order, he or she faces potential punishments that may end up harming the overall case.  If you are facing a contempt citation in your Colorado family law case, contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.  Your attorney may be able to resolve the issue through negotiating the terms or an alternate agreement with the other party’s attorney.  If a new agreement is reached, your lawyer will file an amendment with the court so that it becomes the official record.

Whether you are facing a citation or need to file a citation against the other party in your case, the experienced team at Burnham Law is ready to assist with your family law contempt case.  Trying to navigate the waters of the Colorado family court system on your own can be difficult.  Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

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