What Is Civil Contempt of Court?

What Is Civil Contempt of Court?

Posted By R. Gregory Colvin LLC || 30-Jul-2019

To be in contempt of court is to knowingly disobey a judge’s order, mandate, or decree. This can be done in overt ways, such as an ex-partner refusing to pay or acknowledge child support.

It can also be done in more subtle ways, such as willfully ignoring a judge’s request to not bring up matters irrelevant to the case. If a person is found in contempt of court, they could face serious legal consequences.

These consequences include:

  • incarceration;
  • fines; and
  • wage garnishment;
  • place a lien on property; and
  • suspend professional driver’s licenses.

Civil Contempt

There are two types of contempt a person can be found guilty of; civil and criminal. Criminal contempt usually is about punishing a person for not following a judge’s orders, while civil contempt is used for coercing a party into following a judge’s orders. For example, a judge orders the subject of an ex-spouse’s current partner to be brought up in the court. A person will be held in contempt if they so much as mention the current partner.

Purge Provision

If someone is found in contempt of court, they have a chance to purge the contempt to avoid further consequences. For example, an ex-partner was found in contempt of court for failing to pay child support. The judge orders this person to be placed in jail until they pay what is owed. The ex-partner found guilty of contempt can avoid any jail time if he pays all child support that is past due. However, if the ex-partner still refuses to make any payments, they will be held in court custody.

Limitations of Contempt Powers

The court is prohibited from imprisoning a noncompliant party if the issue has anything to do with an award of equitable distribution of property.

Equitable distribution can take several forms:

  • a person failing to pay a specific amount of money to their ex-partner as a “fair distribution” of the marital estate; and
  • a person failing to pay their ex-partner a marital debt.

The reasoning comes from the Florida Constitution, which doesn’t allow a court to imprison a person for not paying a debt. Equitable distribution awards are often classified as debts; while child support and alimony payments are classified as forms of support and can be enforced with a court’s contempt powers.

Get in Touch with R. Gregory Colvin, LLC

With over 25 years of experience, our contempt of court attorneys are well versed in what it takes to get your ex-partner to pay you what is owed. We can help you convince a court why your ex should be held in contempt of court.

Contact us online or give us a call at (407) 603-3460 for a consultation.

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