Contempt of Court and Child Support – Atlanta, Georgia

Contempt of Court is one of those phrases that gets thrown around all the time. Usually it’s a tv show or movie where a judge is angry at a defendant and says “I hold you in contempt of court!” all while waving their gavel around. Essentially, the judge is bringing on the consequences for someone violating a court order.

While this on-screen drama might be exaggerated a bit for the audience, the fact is that the concept is very real. This ‘contempt’ can have very serious consequences for you and your family, especially if you’re dealing with child support issues. 

For all its television glory, contempt of court is a vague subject for most people. What exactly is it? When can a judge declare you in contempt? Check out the rest of this article to see what it is and how you can avoid it. 

What is Contempt of Court?

Contempt of Court is divided into various different categories and definitions. Civil Contempt and Criminal Contempt. The basic definition of civil contempt is disobeying, disrespecting, or disturbing a judge or courtroom. 

When dealing with these cases, judges have a lot of leeway on when and how to punish those being held in contempt. If a person has repeatedly been disrespectful to a judge that might be seen differently than a one-off ‘heat-of-the-moment’ event in court.

Criminal Contempt is rarer than its civil counterpart. Criminal Contempt might be a defendant or someone in a case impeding the proceeding of the case by deliberately trying to influence a judge or juror. Criminal Contempt can continue beyond its underlying cases. Meaning, if someone is held in contempt of court criminally then they will continue to deal with this accusation beyond the conclusion of the occurring case.

Civil Contempt on the other hand occurs more frequently. Both criminal and civil contempt of court can be direct or indirect. Meaning this contempt can occur within the walls of the courtroom and outside of it. In cases of family law, which is what our firm specializes in, a judge might find someone in contempt of court if they refused to pay child support or spousal support. This charge can also be levied against someone the court deems to be in obstruction of custody or visitation agreements. If a valid court order exists, a person has the ability to comply with this order, and they willfully refuse to do so, then they can be found in contempt. 

Contempt of Court Examples:

There are a broad number of situations that can result in contempt of court. These include (but may not be limited to):

  • Acting out in the courtroom
  • Being rude or disrespectful to court officials such as attorneys or judges
  • Refusing to answer direct questions (unless answering would violate your Fifth Amendment rights)
  • Failure to pay fines
  • Failure to sign and file court papers in a timely fashion
  • Failure to pay court-ordered child support
  • Failure to follow court rules
  • Interfering with custody or visitation

Penalties for Contempt of Court

Is Contempt of Court a Felony?

Believe it or not but the punishments for Criminal Contempt of Court might be considered less severe than those for some forms of Civil Contempt. Under Georgia Law, a person who is found guilty of criminal contempt of court can be fined up to $500 and face up to 20 days of jail. But, if for example, a husband refuses to pay alimony to his ex-spouse, even though he has the ability to do so, they could be held confined indefinitely. Meaning, until they pay up, they could be thrown in jail. Usually, though this punishment is reserved for serious and habitual offenders. In reality, a fine is typically imposed.