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What does contempt of court mean in a California divorce?

On Behalf of | Dec 16, 2022 | Divorce |

Any California resident who’s watched a movie with a dramatic courtroom scene has probably heard the phrase “contempt of court.” Dramatics aside, being held in contempt of court is a very real – and serious – thing that can happen during any sort of trial, including a divorce.

What is the definition of “contempt of court?”

Contempt of court is, by definition, defying the orders set forth by the judge or basic codes of conduct of the courtroom. Generally, you might be held in contempt of court if you repeatedly do behaviors that could be considered a disruption to the trial or disrespectful.

There’s an emphasis on the word repeatedly there. Usually, before someone can be charged with contempt of court, they must be told explicitly to stop the behavior or act a certain way.

What are other forms of contempt of court?

Other forms of contempt of court include not following court orders even after the trial has ended. For divorcing couples, this looks like not following a custody or alimony agreement.

During the final steps of a divorce proceeding, both parties will agree to follow the terms of the court settlement as they’re written. Not doing so – or trying to change the terms outside of a court of law – is considered intentionally disrespecting that court order, so you could be held in contempt.

What to do if my spouse doesn’t follow the terms?

In the best-case scenario, there’s just a misunderstanding as to what the court terms meant. For example, not knowing the exact date they were supposed to pay alimony or not understanding a specific phrase.

People are human and we want to believe that mistakes happen. However, if you believe that your ex is intentionally and willfully disregarding the court settlement, you’ll want to take action.