Carlsbad, CA – Most people have heard of contempt of court, either from the media or from watching live court proceedings, but there are nuances to this term that everyone should be aware of, particularly if you are going through a divorce. Whether you are the one divorcing to the one being divorced, it is important to understand all aspects and possibilities that may arise during the proceedings, including contempt orders.
Under California law, a contempt charge may be levied against a litigant who fails to comply with the terms of a court order. There are both contempt adjudication and statutory contempt penalties, and both come with unique terms and conditions.
Orders & Affidavits
A contempt proceeding in family law is initiated by the filing of what is known as an Order to Show Cause. In addition, your attorney will file an Affidavit for Contempt with the Court.
The person who is the alleged perpetrator of the contempt charge is referred to as the “citee.” Once filed, that person will be served with a copy of the papers.
The Affidavit is a full outline of the case, including all facts, such as which contempt violations were committed. If the court determines that there are enough supporting facts that a contempt charge is valid, the citee will then be notified of the contempt charge, as well as the time and place for the court hearing.
The citee will then be given an opportunity to testify, call in witnesses, and present evidence if needed to defend against the charge. In other words, the decision for the contempt charge will never be decided on the moving and responding paperwork alone.
Which Orders Are Enforceable by Contempt?
Child Custody & Visitation Orders: The judge may deem a contempt charge valid if a parent unjustifiably interferes with the other parent’s visitation rights.
Child/Spousal Support Orders: If the court has ordered that support is to be paid, any deviation from those obligations can warrant a contempt charge.
Attorney Fees: If the judge determines that one spouse should pay the other’s attorney fees, not doing so can lead a judge to grant the contempt charge.
Restraining Orders: The judge has the power to enforce compliance of any protection orders, particularly in cases of domestic abuse.
Property Division/Declaration of Disclosure: Failing to disclose assets or documents relating to the division of assets or the declaration of disclosure may risk a charge of contempt if the other spouse decides to file.
Settlement Agreements & Debt Liability Orders: If a spouse is required to make specific payments to a spouse or organization to pay off a debt accumulated during the marriage, failing to do so could turn incite the judge to rule for contempt.
Due Process of a Contempt Charge
The citee is notified and must show up in court at a specified time and date. The citee will be able to hire an attorney or may represent him or herself. The individual will then testify, but he or she can exercise their 5th Amendment rights. By doing so, the citee can refuse to be called as a witness and decline to answer questions to prevent self-incrimination.
The person has a right to a jury trial and has constitutional protection, which means that the citee will not be subject to duplicate punishment or duplicate prosecution for like criminal offenses.
Results of Contempt
The judge will decide the best punishment for the crime being committed.
Filing a Contempt Charge
To file a contempt charge, it’s recommended that you hire an experienced California family law attorney. A divorce lawyer will be able to draw up the proper paperwork and will know which charges to file in order to get the best outcome for your divorce case.
Want to file a contempt charge against your spouse? Call the family attorneys at Griffith, Young & lass in Carlsbad and San Diego, serving clients throughout In Encinitas, Del Mar, La Jolla, Escondido, Leucadia, San Marcos, Solana Beach, Oceanside, Vista, and Rancho Santa Fe.
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