Attorney Discusses Contempt of Court in San Diego Family Law Cases
In California, Penal Code Section 166 PC refers to a category of behavior that is known as contempt of court, which includes actions such as being excessively rowdy in court or refusing to obey a judge’s requests. But this code is most often cited when someone has violated a court order. A contempt of court charge can be a powerful tool to enforce a divorce agreement, a custody agreement, a protective order, or any other order that has been issued by a family court.
If you are attempting to enforce a court order, it is necessary to prove the following facts regarding the defendant (the person violating the order):
- The court issued a lawfully written order.
- The defendant was aware of the court order.
- The defendant was capable of following the court order.
- The defendant willfully and knowingly violated the court order.
There could be a number of situations where it would become necessary to go to court to prove someone has violated a court order. Some orders that deal exclusively with family law include:
- Support Orders: Following a divorce or custody agreement, the court will issue orders pertaining to spousal and child support. One person’s failure to meet these financial obligations could lead to that person being found in contempt of court.
- Child Custody & Visitation Orders: If a parent disregards or interferes with the terms of a custody agreement, he or she could be found in contempt of court.
- Attorney Fees/Costs Orders: If the court established that your spouse was required to pay attorney fees or court fees, your spouse’s failure to do so could lead to a contempt of court charge.
- Property Division Orders: Likewise, a person’s failure to turn over an item of property or another asset that was mandated by the court could lead to a contempt of court charge.
- Restraining Orders & Family Court Protective Orders: Violating the terms of a protection or restraining order could lead to a contempt of court charge.
If someone has violated a court order to which you were a party, such as any of the above examples, it may be necessary to initiate contempt proceedings to compel that person’s compliance. This process begins by filing the correct paperwork. Then, the named defendant must be notified of the charge. He or she will have the right to a hearing to defend against the charges.
For the defendant to be found in contempt of court, you will need to show that he/she willfully violated the order. For example, if your spouse has been issued a stay-away order and he accidently runs into you at the store, this is not automatically a violation. You would need to be able to prove that he knew you were going to be at the location at that time and purposefully showed up.
In general, a contempt of court conviction is a misdemeanor. The penalties can include up to six months in jail and monetary fines. However, with certain types of orders involving domestic violence or elder abuse, the penalties can be much more severe - up to a year in jail. A second offense can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, and can result in up to three years in jail.
If your ex-spouse or someone you know has violated a court order to which you were a party, consult with a San Diego contempt of court lawyer to discuss your options. If your safety or the welfare of your family is at stake, don’t wait. The legal team at Mattis Law, A.P.C., has years of experience protecting families and helping clients win successful outcomes. Call us today at (858) 328-4400 to schedule a free consultation.