You might have heard the phrase “contempt of court” in the discussion of criminal cases. However, for Florida parents who pay or receive child support, the phrase carries special meaning. Sometimes a parent, for whatever reason, is not paying regular support as required by the court. If this happens, the other parent can file a motion in court to have the non-paying parent found in contempt of court.
As explained by FindLaw, contempt of court in a criminal case usually takes the form of misconduct in the courtroom or forms of noncompliance with the court. A person may, for instance, be held in contempt for refusing to testify in front of a grand jury. In civil cases, contempt of court usually means that someone has failed to fulfill a court order and caused injury to another person.
When a judge finds that contempt of court has occurred, the judge will hand down a sanction intended to right the wrong that has occurred. Sometimes the wrong is related to delaying a judicial process and the judge simply wants to keep the proceeding going without further problems. If the contempt of court is about a party that is wronged, the judge will attempt to restore the rights of that person.
A person held in contempt of court is to be provided notice and a chance to be heard in court. However, unlike criminal proceedings, a person found in contempt in a civil case does not enjoy the same constitutional rights, such as a trial by jury. Sometimes a court will incarcerate a person as punishment, but it does not have to go this far. Contempt sanctions can terminate if the actual case ends or if the person found in contempt agrees to go along with the original support order.
The fact that a person should be heard in court if found in contempt should provide you with hope if someone files a contempt of court claim against you. The advice of a professional family law attorney can help you decide what to do next. Since child support cases will differ, only read this article as general information and not legal advice.