What does it mean to be “Held in Contempt” by the court?

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Contempt is a tool used by Probate and Family Courts to enforce parties to comply with Court Orders. This gives the Court power to enforce Orders and/or Judgments issued during divorce, custody and other Probate & Family Court proceedings. Being “Held in Contempt” means that a Court has made a finding that you violated a Court Order or Judgment.

Someone who violates or disobeys a court order risks being held in contempt by the court. This includes failing to pay alimony or child support or refusal to comply with a parenting schedule ordered by the court. It can also include failure to divide property, provide health insurance or pay your share of uninsured medical or extracurricular expenses.

There are two types of contempt, civil and criminal. The purpose of civil contempt is to act as a  remedial and coercive step in enforcing compliance with a court order whereas criminal contempt is more to punish for the violation.

In the event one party is not following a court-appointed order, the other party can file a Complaint for Contempt. This process requires the initiating party to provide a valid court order, show the defendant has knowledge of the order, and provide evidence that the defendant is willfully disobeying the order. Civil Contempt can include a variety of sanctions ranging from a jail sentence that will end early if the Defendant pays any outstanding monies, payment of attorney’s fee or suspension of parenting time.

A criminal contempt, on the other hand, is a tool to punish the defiant party. Someone found guilty of criminal contempt may face jail time without the possibility of being released early.

Either party can file a complaint for contempt to address non-compliance with any order, including temporary orders and final judgments.

Whether you wish to file a Complaint for Contempt or have been served with notice of a hearing, our office can assist you in court. Contact us today to discuss your legal rights.

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