Contempt of court refers to an individual’s behavior that defies or opposes the authority of the court. In terms of family law, civil contempt generally involves the failure to perform an act ordered by the court.
Contempt of court may be classified into two parts: Direct or indirect. Direct contempt is an act occurring in the presence of the court. An example is refusing to answer a question by an attorney or judge while under oath. Indirect contempt, on the other hand, is an act occurring outside the courtroom with the intention to mock, belittle, degrade, or interrupt the court’s proceedings. Withholding evidence is one example of indirect contempt.
One of the most common areas that contempt of course 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.
In order to establish contempt, a party must establish that a valid court order is being violated by another party who has knowledge of the order and who has the ability to comply with it. In the case of child support, for instance, the payer may be found in contempt of court if he or she has a job or income, or has the funds to use to pay the required child support. If, however, the payer is unemployed or has been laid off from his or her job, then the court may not find that the parent has the ability to pay. Circumstances and facts behind the violation are also taken into consideration, and a violation of court orders does not automatically lead the court to a finding of contempt.
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. In such an event, the court issues the citation and orders you to appear in court on a specific date to either show cause or explain why you should not be held in contempt. A warrant for your arrest may be issued if you do not appear in court.
At this hearing, the other party has the burden of proof to show that you are in violation of the court order. If you are found to have violated the court order willfully, you may face jail time, fines, or both. If conditions are imposed such as complying with the court order, then your punishment may be suspended.
In most cases, contempt citations can be resolved through negotiations between the parties’ attorneys. Have the agreement in writing and signed by all parties involved, then see to it that the agreement goes on the court’s record or is given to the court.
The contempt of court motion in Colorado can take anywhere from two to four months—sometimes more.