If a party involved in a case fails to comply with a court order, they can be held in contempt. Contempt is a process through which the court can enforce any type of court order, whether it pertains to temporary orders or final orders after a case has been concluded.

When filing this type of motion, it is crucial to present specific and detailed information and a transparent account to the court. Similarly, if you find yourself defending against a Motion for Contempt, it is vital to provide precise and comprehensive information, along with supporting evidence,  to present your side of the story.

Family law statutes grant the court the authority to impose both corrective and punitive penalties to ensure compliance with orders. Should the court determine that an individual is guilty of contempt, it has the authority to order the non-compliant parent to pay for the other side’s attorney’s fees, fines, and reasonable expenses incurred in the process of filing for contempt. A civil penalty of no less than $100 may be imposed. In more severe cases, the court can even issue a jail sentence, though the court is not allowed to order imprisonment for debt-related matters.

Parenting Plan

For a court to find contempt of a parenting plan, it must determine that the parent, with an intent to act in bad faith, has failed to abide by to the provisions of the parenting plan. If contempt is found, the court may grant make-up time to the parent who has been deprived of residential time. Any additional time awarded would be equivalent to the duration of time missed due to the actions of the non-compliant parent.

Child Support

Contempt proceedings are a useful method to enforce child support, even after the child turns 18. Notably, the court need not establish willful or deliberate intent to disregard the support obligations; it is sufficient to demonstrate that the support was not paid as previously ordered. This principle applies to all other provisions outlined in the Child Support Order, as long as the individual had been notified of the court’s order. If contempt is found, the court would order the non-compliant parent to pay the outstanding support and schedule a return hearing to determine whether the terms of the order have been fulfilled.

Divorce Decree

For a decree to be enforceable through a contempt action, it must precisely outline the obligations imposed on the party in violation. The duties prescribed must be clear and comprehensible to those bound by the order, and the alleged violator must have been duly informed of the decree and its non-compliance.

Should the court determine contempt due to failure to follow an order, it possesses the authority to issue several orders that would include mandating an individual in contempt to fulfill terms such as  support obligations, payment of the opposing party’s attorney’s fees and additional fines, and in extreme circumstances, may even order jail time.

Will the Court Order Jail Time?

It is very rare for the court to impose actual jail time in a contempt action. If the moving party requests jail time, the alleged violator is entitled to legal representation, and the court may appoint an attorney if the individual lacks the financial means to hire one. In cases involving debts such as child support, maintenance, or other family-related obligations, the court cannot order jail time if the debtor can demonstrate their inability to comply with the order.

Typically, jail time is only enforced in situations where the violation is particularly severe, there have been multiple contempt findings, or the violator shows a refusal to cooperate with court orders. To avoid imposing jail time as a means of coercing compliance with the original order, the court must provide the violator with an opportunity to “purge” the contempt by offering a feasible way to fulfill the requirements.


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