What It Means to Be in Contempt of Court – and What to Do About It

A judge and their gavel.

Being held in contempt of court is a standard part of the judicial process in Illinois and other states, and one that shouldn’t be hard to avoid. It refers to a motion that a party may file, and it can serve a variety of purposes. The general aim is to maintain established rules and, ideally, to lead to some form of legal compliance. If someone is in contempt of court, it indicates that one of any number of events has occurred related to a case. That individual might have:

  1. Defied a court order;
  2. Disrupted the courtroom proceedings; or
  3. Showed disrespect for the law in some way.

Because there are consequences to being held in contempt, it’s good to understand what this procedure means if you are anticipating being involved in a case in order to stay on the right side of the law.

Contempt of Court in Illinois Family Law Cases

According to the Illinois State Bar Association, the explanation of contempt of law when it comes to family law is fairly straightforward: “When an Illinois court issues a decision related to a divorce, child custody, or family law case, the decision is final. The parties may have an opportunity to file an appeal or petition the court for a modification under certain circumstances; however, they cannot simply ignore the court’s ruling. Failure to comply with a court order can lead to being held in contempt of court.”

Being in Contempt of Court Can Happen Within or Outside of a Courtroom

Some people misunderstand the expression, believing that they are only at risk of being held in contempt while they are in a physical courtroom. However, there are two types of contempt: direct and indirect, and each has its own potential repercussions. While attempts to delay a case can certainly result in this kind of order, any perceived attempt to disrupt the court’s normal procedure could lead to an order being filed. That said, finding top-rated representation is the first step in protecting yourself from potential penalties down the road.

What Happens When You File a Contempt of a Family Court Order?

When it comes to family law, orders tend to relate to such issues as a failure to provide child or spousal support, attend counseling, or some other action that judges often order. There may be times when your lawyer will recommend filing a motion to show cause or a notice of noncompliance as a means of getting the other party to comply with a judge’s order. Violating one can result in a range of actions, from financial penalties to jail in extreme cases. However, if you feel you’ve been unfairly targeted by an order you may have a chance to argue your position in court to avoid being penalized.

How Do You Avoid Being Held in Contempt of Court?

It is rare to be held in contempt and can generally be avoided as long as you follow the judge’s orders, as well as your lawyer’s advice throughout the process. To be on the safe side, parties should show respect for the judge in their case and take care to comply with all of their legal responsibilities. Work closely with a good family law attorney so you understand the different components of your case, and what is legally required of you, as much as possible. Doing so will provide you with a fuller understanding of what the rules are and how to remain completely within the boundaries of the law.

Consult with David A. King, P.C. for Your Family Law Case

Being involved on either end of a contempt of court order can be overwhelming. It is a complex issue whose outcome will depend on the individual circumstances of your case. Therefore, no matter which side you’re on, you will want an experienced and knowledgeable attorney in your corner.

Contact the Law Office of David A. King, P.C. for more information about contempt of court orders. No matter what the issue is, our team can consult with you to determine the best way to proceed in your family law case.


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