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  • Tracy Duell-Cazes

Contempt of Court

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

Contempt of court order is a legal remedy that is available to either party in a family law case after an order or a judgment is entered when the other party fails to comply with the order. These orders may include provisions about what the parties are to do or refrain from doing. These orders may arise in several different areas, including, for example, spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation, or a certain division of assets.

In California family law cases contempt of court is treated in substantially the same manner as a criminal misdemeanor case. In cases of contempt, the burden is on the petitioning party to prove the circumstances of the contempt beyond a reasonable doubt. The person filing the support-related contempt motion will be required to prove that:

  • there is a valid court order,

  • that the other party had knowledge of the order,

  • the other party did not comply with the order.

If the motion is for something other than support or attorney fees, then the person filing the motion also has to prove that the other party had the ability to comply with the order. This is sometimes a very difficult thing to prove.

Most of the time, both parties of divorce are present when the court orders are signed, however in some cases, one of the parties is not present. In this case, the party that was not present must be properly served with the court order. There are times that a Judge will say that the order is effective immediately even though the written order has not been finalized. I most cases, this may not be sufficient to enforce the order by a contempt motion. It is always best to get the order written and finalized as soon as possible after the Judge makes the oral orders.

If you are being accused of contempt, you have several rights, including the following:

  • The most important right that should absolutely be exercised is your right to remain silent.

  • You have the right to be formally notified of the charges against you.

  • You have the right to an attorney and if you can’t afford one, the court will appoint an attorney.

  • You have the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against you and to present a defense

If you have a court order (sometimes called a Findings and Order After Hearing) or a judgment and you feel that the other party is willfully violating the orders, or if you are being accused of contempt of court for allegedly violating a court order, contact the TDC Family Law. Tracy is a Certified Family Law Specialist by the California Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar of California and has held this certification since December of 2002.

Tracy has also been named as a Northern California “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyers from 2009 through 2021. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations.

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