To enforce the court order, a contempt charge can be filed at any time. A few of the areas a contempt charge can be filed are child support orders, alimony orders, and paternity degrees. The penalty for being charged with contempt is jail time, a fine, or both. Please note that the bank accounts of the person found in contempt can be garnished.
Contempt Actions In Family Court
There are two types of contempt:
- Direct contempt
- Indirect contempt
Most people are familiar with direct contempt. This is where you’re in the courtroom and someone does something or says something and disobeys the judge in the courtroom.
The other type of contempt is indirect contempt, which usually you will only find in family court. Indirect contempt is a violation of a court order outside of the presence of the court. In family law, you get that with a failure to pay child support and other matters. If, for example, there is a child support order that is in full force and the obligor fails to pay child support, then the obligor may file an application for indirect contempt.
Can A Contempt Action Be Filed Before A Divorce Is Granted?
In a divorce that is filed within the first few weeks, attorneys will attempt to get a temporary order in place that addresses child custody, child support, and visitation. If the child support is entered early on, that’s a court order that’s enforceable. If the child support is violated anytime during the process, a person may file for indirect contempt of that court order irrespective of where we are at in the process of the divorce.
The Steps In A Contempt Action In Family Court
The process of contempt has a criminal component where one can go to jail if found guilty. Once an application for indirect contempt citation is filed, a contempt citation is issued to the contemnor (the person who is in contempt).
The first court date after being issued this contempt citation is what’s known as an arraignment. That’s where the party goes to court to announce whether they would like to plead guilty or not guilty. Generally, folks plead guilty at the arraignment, and then there is a pretrial. From there a trial will be set.
There can be a plea deal wherein the contemnor agrees to get on a payment plan to get caught up with the child support or back child support at this point, which are known as arrears. Then periodically through the process, there would be review dates to see if this person is still in compliance with the plea deal.
If it goes to trial, then that person will either be found guilty or not guilty. If they are found not guilty, the case will be finalized. If the person is found guilty, the judge will proceed with the punishment phase.
For the person filing the application for contempt to prevail there would have to be a court order that was signed by all parties including the judge. All parties would have to be notified of this court order, specifically the person that’s being accused of being in direct contempt. That person should know about this court order, and they willingly failed to abide by the court order in order for the contempt motion to succeed.
What Do You Do If You’ve Been Charged With Or Accused Of Contempt?
A person will be found guilty of contempt if they willfully violated a court order. A defense to indirect contempt would be the person did not willfully violate that court order. For example: with COVID, society went through different obstacles that put people in the position of losing their job or it changed a person’s job that could not have been foreseen. In times such as COVID, this would be an example of it not being willful.
Another example of that is if a person in fact did not know that they were ordered to pay this child support. However, that is usually not the case. Most folks are aware of their obligation with the court orders.
Why Is It Important To Hire A Family Law Attorney?
When people go through family law matters, they are often very emotional, as they should be. The value of hiring an attorney is that you get someone that will advocate on behalf of you, and someone that understands the system and how to navigate through it.
Of course, this is something that the ordinary person could do, and anyone can research and read the case law and statutes to get what they would like out of this court system. However, considering the nature of these cases and the rules and regulations in regard to getting through the process, it is often easier, and more economical, to hire a lawyer and allow that lawyer to guide it through the process. For more information on Contempt Action in Oklahoma, an initial consultation is your next best step.