Being held in contempt of court is obviously not a good outcome. However, some individuals believe it is worth the risk to prove a point or make a statement that they do not agree with a court order issued by a family law judge, and this is not a good idea.
That’s why it’s important to understand the consequences of a contempt of court order in Texas. By reviewing the consequences of any actions that go against a court order, individuals can make the right decision to follow an order for the betterment of all parties involved.
First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about how to think about contempt of court according to Texas law.
What Exactly is Contempt of Court in Texas?
Texas law recognizes a few different types of contempt. One type is known as direct contempt, which occurs in an actual court proceeding where a person attempts to actively interfere with court proceedings.
For example, a person who continually interferes with a child custody hearing by talking over the judge or making threats against the other parent could be held in direct contempt of the court.
Another type of contempt is known as indirect contempt. This occurs outside of a courtroom where one party knowingly violates an original court order issued by a judge.
For example, a person might violate a protective order, disallow an ex-spouse from accessing an asset identified in a divorce proceeding, or not comply with visitation hours as part of a child custody agreement. This type of contempt is typical for family law matters.
– In the Texas Family Law code, there are multiple references to contempt. These laws provide a family law court with authority to act against the offending party by holding them in contempt.
Examples of Contempt in the Family Code
– Child Custody or Child Support: A Texas family court “may enforce by contempt” any provision contained in a suit that affects the parent-child relationship. For example, if one party is found to have violated the terms of a child custody order, then the court could hold the offending party in contempt.
When making a request to enforce the original court order, the other party must reference the portion of the original order that was allegedly violated. Additionally, the other party must provide documentation regarding the date and damages of the alleged contempt.
– Child-Related Restraining Order: The Texas Family Code allows a court to issue a temporary order designed to protect a child’s safety and welfare. A person’s action that violates a temporary restraining order, temporary injunction, or other temporary order “is punishable by contempt.”
– Family-Related Protective Order: If a person is found to have committed family violence, a Texas court can order this individual to pay fees in relation to the issuance of a Protective Order. A person who does not pay the ordered fees outlined in the order can be “punished for contempt of court.”
– The Texas Family Code provides additional guidance on contempt in specific situations. I can discuss these with you depending on your current circumstances. Let’s now examine the consequences of contempt of court.
Consequences of Contempt of Court to Be Aware Of
Texas law allows for a judge to render various punishments according to the nature, severity, and frequency of the violation. The greater the violation or, the more frequent the violation, the more severe the potential punishment. Consider the following consequences.
1. Jail Time
According to the Texas Family Code, a finding of contempt “may be punished by confinement in jail for up to six months.” This punishment is specifically cited for failure to obey a court order for child support or visitation.
The more severe or frequent the violation, the more jail time that a person could face. It becomes the judge’s discretion to issue additional punishment if the original punishment did not lead to a change in actions or behavior.
A person who is found in contempt faces a fine of up to $500 “for each violation.” This can add up quickly if there is a pattern of non-compliance.
- A person could be found in contempt for multiple violations of the same court order (e.g., violating both the child custody and child support terms of a divorce order).
- Or, a person could repeatedly commit the same offense that a judge deems are separate violations.
3. Attorney’s Fees and Court Costs
An offender could also be forced to pay attorney’s fees and court costs for a hearing to enforce an original court order and determine whether the offending party is in contempt.
A judge can issue a “money judgment” for the offender to pay attorneys and the court for expenditures that would have been avoided if the offender had complied with the original order.
4. Community Service
An offender could be placed on a type of probation for failure to comply with an original order. In cases involving the enforcement of an original order, the Texas Family Code calls out this consequence in specific situations.
According to the law, a court can place an offender on “community supervision” if the court finds that the offender is in contempt of court for failing to or refusing to obey the terms of a suit that affects the parent-child relationship.
5. Reduction of Privileges
The court can also return to the original court order and pursue a reduction of privileges for an offender found in contempt. This often occurs in child custody cases.
For example, the court could issue a punishment that reduces a parent’s ability to see their child as part of a modification to the original parenting plan. Or, the parent could be subject to supervised visitations where they lose the right to visit one-on-one with their child.
Find Support With a Contempt of Court Legal Situation
Contempt of court is not to be taken lightly, and it can lead to severe consequences that affect a person’s life, relationships with other people, and ability to produce income.
If you are in the midst of a situation where contempt is involved or if you know someone who is facing punishment from a contempt of court order, then I can provide legal assistance.
As an expert in Texas family law, I support individuals with these types of legal situations in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you or someone you know lives in one of these counties, then contact me for legal support.
Call my offices today at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to further discuss the consequences of a contempt of court order. I’m here to help during a difficult situation.