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What is Contempt of Court?


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Contempt of Court:

A court that renders a final decree of divorce retains the power to enforce all aspects of the divorce decree. If either party to the divorce violates the court ordered divorce decree without, first motioning the court for modification that party is said to be in “contempt of court.”

Motion For Contempt of Court:

If your ex-spouse violates any aspect of the final decree of divorce, you can file a motion for contempt of court. You can do this as a pro-se litigant or through your attorney. A copy of the contempt motion has to be served upon your ex-spouse.

If you have an attorney, he/she will take care of doing this. If you are pro-se you can call your court clerk for information about forms you need to file and laws pertaining to giving notice to your ex-spouse.

The motion must state what areas of the final decree have been violated and why the ex-spouse should be held in contempt of court. The burden of proof during a contempt hearing is on the injured party. If you feel there has been contempt, be prepared when you go to court to proof your accusations. Some issues that are commonly violated are:

Guilty of Contempt of Court:

If you are able to prove that your ex-spouse is in violation of the court ordered divorce decree then they may be imprisoned for as long as the contempt continues. Most judges will give them the chance to immediately comply with the aspect they are in violation of. If they can’t or don’t comply a judge will order them jailed until they do.

The judge will write an order holding your ex-spouse in contempt and specifying how they can purge themselves of the contempt. The judge may order them to immediately comply or give them a certain amount of time to comply. Every state has laws that would allow your ex-spouse to seek an early release or no jail time at all. Some grounds for no jail time are:

  • No one to care for dependent children.
  • Possible loss of his/her job.
  • Physical or emotional disabilities.
  • Proven inability to comply with the court order.


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