Court orders that determine parenting arrangements are considered serious documents. To keep things stable for children after their parents split up, it’s important for both sides to uphold their end of the arrangement.
Family courts in Texas have jurisdiction over any orders that are made in divorce proceedings and any other cases involving families and children. The court can also handle any violations of family court orders.
If one party chooses to ignore a court order or violates an existing order, this individual may be found in contempt of court. It’s a serious matter that could affect the entire family. Learn more about the punishment for contempt of court in family court.
Types of Contempt in the State of Texas
Contempt cases can be either civil or criminal. A criminal contempt case is meant to uphold the court’s authority and to punish the person who is guilty of contempt (referred to as the “contemnor”).
Anyone who is facing contempt has the right to a trial where her or she can call witnesses. An example of a criminal contempt case would be violating a domestic violence protective order. In this case, the contemnor could face jail time. And the court could charge this person with either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Civil contempt cases are designed to compel the person disobeying the order to follow it. In these cases, the contemnor can avoid being sanctioned if he or she follows the order. A person can generally be held in contempt under either one of these classifications, but he or she cannot be held for both on the same charge.
Proving Contempt in Family Court
The court will need proof that the person “willfully disobeyed” the order, which means that he or she was aware of the terms outlined in the parenting plan, was able to follow the terms, and yet neglected to do so.
The court may not charge the contemnor if this person can prove that he or she wasn’t aware of the specific terms of the agreement or wasn’t able to follow it (referred to as “non-willful disobedience”).
Parents who are involved in contempt cases will need to have solid proof to back up their claims. Some examples include records of communication, parenting time schedules, and testimony from children and/or third parties.
Contempt of Court Penalties for Child Custody Cases
Disobeying a child custody order could lead to a civil contempt charge. Some of the common violations in these cases include the following:
- Not allowing a parent to exercise his or her visitation rights.
- Not returning the child to the other parent at the end of the visitation.
- Taking a child out of state without permission.
If a parent is found in contempt for violating a child custody order, he or she could face the following punishments:
- Supervised visitation.
- Other charges to the parenting plan (such as a reduction in parenting time).
The key is you must have a court order before filing a motion to request the judge review your case. If you do not have a current order or if the original order has expired, there cannot be a contempt proceeding.
Contempt of Court Penalties for Child Support Cases
Disobeying a child support order can lead to either a civil or criminal punishment for contempt of court in family court. Some of the possible penalties for not paying child support can include:
- Wage garnishment.
- Jail time.
For the court to charge a parent with contempt, they must be able to prove that he or she was able to pay child support but chose not to pay it.
If the parent isn’t able to pay child support because of a loss of employment, the court may see it as a circumstance beyond that person’s control and will not pursue contempt charges. But, the court could still charge that person with contempt on the grounds that he or she should have informed the court of the situation and pursued a modification of the original family law case.
Avoiding Punishment for Contempt of Court in Family Court
Let’s say you are facing the possibility of a contempt charge because you have been unable to comply with the court order. If you want to avoid contempt charges, you must follow the rules of all court proceedings and the court order. If you are unsure what to do, you need to take the appropriate steps to understand your obligations.
For example, if you are unsure about specific requirements in the order, it’s important to ask the court or your family law attorney to clarify anything that you find confusing.
Or, if you owe child support, you should immediately inform the court when you’re having trouble making payments. It could save you from owing more money and facing a contempt charge that could lead to unwanted punishments.
We encourage anyone in this situation to get in touch with our attorneys at Parker & Aguilar. We can support you on the path to avoiding punishment for contempt of court in family court.
Need to Enforce a Family Law Ruling?
In addition to supporting individuals who are trying to avoid contempt, we work with parties who are trying to hold the other party accountable for not upholding the agreement.
We can work with you to enforce the original order, whether for child custody, child support, or spousal support. Our attorneys will fight on your behalf to ensure you receive everything you are owed from the other spouse.
We currently support individuals in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, reach out to our offices to discuss your situation.
You can reach our offices at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with one of our family law attorneys. We are prepared to discuss the potential punishment for contempt of court in family court pertaining to your case. Let’s get started on your case.