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What Does It Mean to Be In Contempt of Court?

judge chair and gavel in courtroom

In any case where someone violates court orders, they may be held in contempt of court. What does this mean and what are the consequences of being in contempt? Our attorneys at Palmer Perlstein go over everything you need to know about contempt in family law and criminal cases.

Contempt of Court: Family Law

Contempt of court in family law cases typically involves court order violations. This could be court orders regarding child support, child custody, visitation, spousal support, or a protective order. For example: when a child support order is established by the court, those payments are mandatory. If the paying parent does not pay for a period of time and the receiving parent notifies the court, the paying parent could be held in contempt.

Other examples of family law contempt include:

  • Violating protective orders
  • Preventing mandatory child visitation
  • Deviation from the court-ordered custody agreement

If a party is found in contempt of court, they may face various punishments. First, they may have to serve a jail sentence. The Texas Family Code states that contempt can be punishable by up to six months in jail. The at-fault party may also have to pay fines, cover legal costs, and complete community service hours.

Another major consequence of contempt in family law cases is the loss or reduction of privileges. For example, if a parent does not pay their child support, the court may decrease the amount of time they are allowed visitation with their child.

It’s important to note that parents should never take action on their own if their ex is violating court orders. In other words, don’t punish your ex yourself because they are violating custody or support orders. If you do this, you could be found in contempt as well. Instead, contact our team at Palmer Perlstein. We can help you notify the court of your ex’s failure to comply with court orders and get them to take enforcement actions.

Contempt of Court: Criminal Law

Contempt is defined differently in a criminal case by being called direct and indirect contempt of court. Direct contempt of court occurs if someone in the court directly yells at the judge, impedes the court's abilities, or otherwise disrespects the court. One example of this is someone having an outburst during a trial. If this occurs, that individual may be stopped and held in contempt. Indirect contempt happens outside of the courtroom. This could be violating rules regarding juror communication or refusing to provide necessary evidence.

Like with contempt in family law cases, those charged with contempt in connection to criminal proceedings face numerous penalties. Contempt is a misdemeanor offense which can lead to jail time and fines.

Handling Contempt Charges

If you have recently been charged with contempt of any kind, it’s important to work with a defense attorney. Contempt of court is a criminal charge and if you are found guilty, it will become a part of your criminal record.

Our defense attorneys can help you challenge your contempt charge:

  • You did not mean to violate the court order – it was accidental
  • You were unaware of the order you have been accused of violating
  • You were unable to comply with the order

These are all strong, valid arguments that our team at Palmer Perlstein can employ to help you avoid the harsh consequences of a contempt conviction.

Dallas Contempt Defense

You don’t need to handle your contempt charges alone. Contact us at Palmer Perlstein today to learn more about how our team can help you defend yourself.

Similarly, if you are struggling with someone who is consistently violating court orders, we can help you hold them responsible under the law. Contact our team and we can help you through the process of notifying the court and seeing that you get what is owed.