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The term “contempt” arises in many different types of legal proceedings, and it means a willful disregard of a court Order or of a court’s authority.
In custody cases, contempt issues often arise when a parent is not following the custody order. Sometimes, a parent is justified in making a change, such as when an emergency situation arises and it isn’t possible to follow the custody order; those situations do not constitute “contempt” because the parent is not “willfully” disregarding the order. In other cases, a parent has willfully chosen not to follow a custody order, for example by unilaterally changing the schedule, speaking derogatorily about the other parent, or enrolling the child in a new school without the other parent’s agreement.
Sanctions for contemptuous conduct can range from a warning to stop engaging in the contemptuous conduct, through having to pay the other party’s legal fees, having one’s custody time decreased, or even being sentenced to jail time. Repeated instances of contempt by a parent are typically treated increasingly harshly; for example, while a parent may be warned to cease their conduct the first time that it occurs, and they may be forced to pay the other party’s attorney fees the second time that it occurs, a that they after multiple and continuing violations by the same party, there’s a good chance that they may be sentenced to jail time.
In divorce cases, contempt issues often arise out of a party’s failure to provide documents in a timely manner, or to abide by a court’s order specifying how the parties are to obtain appraisals, divide property, or otherwise handle their affairs as their case progresses. Similar to the custody context, the sanctions for such contemptuous conduct vary and typically become increasingly harsh if a party repeatedly refuses to abide by court orders.
If you believe that the other party in your divorce or custody case is violating a court order, or if you have been accused of contempt, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Tanner Law Offices to schedule a consultation to discuss your particular circumstances with one of our attorneys.