Understanding Contempt of Court Citations

Contempt of CourtContempt of court refers to an individual’s behavior that defies or opposes the authority of the court. If someone files a contempt of court citation against you in Colorado, that party is asking the judge to punish or penalize you because they believe you violated at least one provision of a court order. If you have reason to believe the other party in your case has violated a court order, then it is also possible for you to file contempt against him or her.

One of the most common areas in which contempt of court cases arise is child support. This is primarily because there is a payment due each month, which means there is an opportunity every month for the paying party to violate court orders.

There are two types of contempt: remedial contempt or punitive contempt. The main differences between remedial contempt or punitive contempt are what need to be proven against the supposed violator, as well as the sanctions to be imposed.

With remedial contempt, the moving party requests the court to create a sentence that encourages the alleged violator to comply with the court’s orders. The sentence crafted is not a form of punishment, and will end as soon as the alleged violator proves he or she complied with the court’s orders. Sanctions for remedial contempt vary, but can include jail time until the violator complies with the court order. Attorney’s fees and costs may also be awarded.

In remedial contempt, the burden of proof is preponderance of the evidence. Elements of remedial contempt are that a lawful court order existed, that the alleged violator knew of the order yet failed to comply, and that the alleged violator has a present ability to comply with the court order.

With punitive contempt, on the other hand, the moving party requests the court to punish the alleged violator with a fixed sentence. Unlike with remedial sanctions, punitive sanctions are made to deliberately punish the violator for conduct that is found to be offensive to both the authority and the dignity of the court. Sanctions for punitive contempt can include a maximum jail sentence of six months, a fine, or both. Attorney fees, however, are not awarded to parties that seek this type of contempt.

Punitive contempt is quasi-criminal in nature, and the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. Elements of this type of contempt are that a lawful court order existed, that the alleged violator knew of the order, that he or she had the ability to comply with the court order yet failed to comply, and that the alleged violator willfully failed to comply.

An alleged violator may face claims for either remedial contempt, punitive contempt, or both.

Of course, these remedies may not be what you are truly after—especially in the case of parenting time violations. You may obtain many more remedies by filing a Motion Concerning Parenting Time Disputes, such as make-up parenting time, court-ordered family therapy, and a bond to ensure future compliance.

In most cases, contempt citations can be resolved through negotiations between the parties’ attorneys. The process can take a long time, and can often be costly to pursue. It is therefore best to consult with an experienced attorney to determine how best to proceed if another party is not following a court order.