I am going to start a series of blogs on contempts. “Why a ‘series’?” you ask. Well, because it’s a complex topic that is too much to address in one blog. “Why ‘contempts’?” you ask. I just completed my second motion to dismiss a contempt on the same case in roughly a three-month time period. This is due 100% to the fact that the person who has filed the two contempts has no idea what they are doing. In this situation, it could end up costing the victim of such frivolous acts tens of thousands of dollars just to defend. So the public needs to understand a little bit more about contempts.
This first post will address what contempt is:
We all remember My Cousin Vinny, right? Vinny shows up to court in his leather suit and is constantly being yelled at by the Judge saying, “You’re in contempt of court!”
That is NOT the type of contempt that I am addressing here. What I am going to be discussing is the contempt that all family law litigants love to love. The kind of contempt where the other parent is 10 minutes late to an exchange of the child and a client calls to say, “That’s it! Let’s file a contempt!”
Family law contempts are used for disobeying a court order. Because family law is civil law and not criminal law, family law contempts are called “quasi-criminal,” meaning they are “kinda criminal, kinda civil”. The reason they are “quasi-criminal” is due to the fact that one possibility for a sentence is jail time.
In family law when someone disobeys a court order, the adverse party can file a contempt action against them. The judge will arraign them (meaning ask them if they plead guilty or not guilty and tell them they have the right to a lawyer, etc.) A trial will then take place where the Judge (no jury here) decides if they have purposely disobeyed the order and then decides their sentence. Sentences can range from 5 days in jail for each count to paying fines or community service.
Seems simple enough, right? Not, exactly. There are so many technicalities and certain types of orders that are NOT proper for a contempt and if you fail to plead your contempt properly, the court may reject it altogether so that it does not even get filed and you do not get your day in court.
Check back soon for the next post about what types of orders you can seek with a contempt. You may be surprised. 🙂
If you have any questions about contempts or any other family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Moore Family Law Group at (951) 463-5594.