Can You Be In Contempt Of Court With A Divorce?

Divorce can be thought of as several court orders all in one document. Any one of those orders, if violated, can be punished by the law. Disobeying a court order could result in a second court case. Read on to find out more.

Contempt of Court: What to Know

When you fail to act in a lawful manner, you can be charged with contempt of court. Though judges use their own discretion when evaluating a contempt charge, almost any bad behavior in court or failing to follow a court order can be prosecuted as a separate contempt of court charge. With a divorce, provisions within the divorce decree as well as those pertaining to separation agreements, custody agreements, and more can all be subject to this sort of issue. Take a look at a few examples of court orders that might prompt legal action of a criminal nature:

  • Not paying child support as ordered.
  • Parental kidnapping after disregarding child custody or visitation orders.
  • Not following property settlement agreements.

Are You in Contempt?

For the court to bring criminal charges, problems with disobeying a court order have to be serious. Simple and minor issues between two divorcing (or divorced) people are not enough for the court to get involved. However, the court does tend to sit up and pay attention when an order involves the health, well-being, and safety of a minor child. In most cases, contempt of court is reserved for cases in which the party willfully, knowingly, and repeatedly violated a court order or misbehaved in court. For example, you cannot be prosecuted for disobeying a court order of which you had no knowledge. The law must prove that you were lawfully served with the order and failed to abide by it. Minor issues are not grounds for bringing the other party in front of a judge.

What Is in Store for Disobedience of Orders?

Civil matters like divorce can collide with criminal matters in some cases. When you not only disobey an order but endanger a child's life, you can expect to be hit with the full extent of charges available, including contempt of a court order. In theory, jail time is possible. However, a contempt of court charge alone is a misdemeanor and seldom brings with it time in jail. Fines are possible, though, along with the potential for changes in custody or other divorce arrangements. If there is any divorce-connected issue that could and sometimes does bring jail time, it's failure to pay child support.

Don't allow threats about this type of thing to go unchecked. Speak to your divorce lawyer for more information.