What is contempt?

In family law cases, contempt occurs when one party refuses or otherwise fails to abide by the terms of a court order, including settlements, divorce decrees, and preliminary agreements. This can occur in a variety of ways. One example would be with a party specifically withholding parenting time, despite a court order stating that such parenting time is to occur. A party may also be in contempt if they fail to transfer property by a date ordered.

Not every violation of a court order will be contempt. Contempt requires a finding by the court that a party acted in willful disobedience of the court’s order. This can mean that if the court finds the party did not intend to violate the order, the court will not find them in contempt.


How do I initiate a contempt proceeding?

A filing detailing what provisions of what court orders were violated and how they were violated is required. After such filing the Court will set the matter for a hearing.


How do I prove contempt?

In order to prove contempt, the burden is on the person filing the motion. That person must show the court that not only did the other party violate the order but they did so willfully. This can be proven through testimony or exhibits. The best evidence will depend on the facts of your case.


What happens if the Court finds someone in contempt?

After a finding of contempt, the Court has the authority to determine an appropriate remedy. The most typical punishments include the monetary penalties, award of attorney’s fees incurred in filing the motion, and other remedies including jail time. Typically the underlying purpose of any punishment issued by the court is to encourage the party not to violate the court order in the future.


When is contempt not appropriate?

Contempt actions are not appropriate to address minor issues or isolated incidents of behavior. It is not appropriate to use a contempt to be vindictive, and such behavior could back fire. An appropriately experienced attorney can advise you on the appropriate times to file contempt.

If you think your ex-spouse is in contempt, contact us today for a phone consultation at 317-632-4711 or complete our contact form and we will contact you within one business day.

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