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Contempt of Court Frequently Asked Questions: Consequences

Can I go to jail if I’m found in contempt?

With a contempt of court action, the number one concern for any of our clients facing contempt is the possibility of jail. Jail can be ordered in both a remedial or punitive contempt situation. In a punitive situation, the court can order up to 180 days in jail upon a finding of contempt. The amount of time is up to the judge and there are judges out there who will not hesitate to impose a jail sentence. In a remedial situation, the court can also order jail time in a remedial fashion. For example, the court could say, “I hereby sentence you to jail until you such time as you remedy this contempt of court by paying your back alimony.” With jail as a possible outcome for any contempt case, we will strive to find all options available to protect our clients from going there. Settlement of the contempt issue is always the first choice, though the other side may not be willing to settle.

The next option is thoroughly preparing for hearing on the issues, with the hope of showing the court that the other side has not met its burden of proof. Unfortunately, sometimes, a party may truly be in contempt, with little options for hearing or settlement. In those instances, our Denver family lawyers still strive to lessen the fine, penalty, or jail time. Again, each judge and each court will be different in terms of outcomes and sentences. Keep in mind that jail can also be ordered in child custody cases in Denver or Colorado as a whole, regarding violations of visitation or other orders. Work release is also sometimes an option.

What happens if I cannot get the other party served with contempt papers in time?

The party against whom a contempt of court action is filed must be served with the relevant paperwork 20 days prior to the initial advisement hearing. If he or she cannot be served in time, the family law court will generally issue what is called an “alias summons,” which will set forth a new advisement date. This summons should be served with the original papers. Difficulties in getting a person served do arise from time to time. It is not uncommon for people in contempt of court to avoid service. Courts know this and statute makes allowances for such situations.

What happens if I don’t show up at court for my contempt hearing?

Failing to show up for court in a contempt action has different ramifications depending upon whether a person is bringing the contempt action or whether he or she is the one being accused of violating court orders. If the person filing the contempt motion fails to show up for a court date, whether the advisement or the evidentiary hearing, his or her contempt motion will be dismissed. In some jurisdictions, the court does not care if the party bringing the contempt shows up for the advisement, so long as his or her attorney is present.

If the person against whom the contempt is brought fails to show, the other party has various options. Generally, that party will ask the court to issue a warrant for the arrest of the accused and the posting of a cash bond. In Denver area divorce, custody cases, and child support cases, our attorneys most often see contempt actions filed for non-payment of child support or alimony. Generally, the bond requested will be in an amount correlating with the amount of back child support or alimony owed. For the court to issue a warrant for failure to appear, the party bringing the contempt must be able to produce valid documents indicating that the accused was personally served.

If you have doubts or need more information related to consequences of contempt of court, contact us online for assistance, or call us at (303) 781-0322.

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