Denton Family Law Attorney
Contempt of Court
Contempt of court is one of the most powerful methods that a judge has to enforce his or her orders, maintain control of the courtroom, and ensure the integrity of a fair trial. Holding a person or party “in contempt” allows the judge to impose penalties such as fines or incarceration on someone who fails to comply with a court order or who interferes with the normal proceedings and procedures of the court.
A contempt of court judgment can be handed down in many situations. For example, a participant who is repeatedly and blatantly disrespectful of the judge during a trial may be held in contempt. On the other hand, a person who violates a court’s order to pay child support could also be considered in contempt.
In the United States, contempt of court cases are categorized into two types:
Direct contempt takes place in the presence of the judge. In these cases, the judge can act immediately to notify the party of their offense and impose penalties summarily, if necessary.
Indirect contempt is an offense which occurs outside of court, usually in the form of disobedience to a court order. Indirect contempt is typically brought to the attention of the court by the intended beneficiary of the violated order. The accused will then be notified of the charge and given the opportunity to present evidence in their own defense.
The enforcement of a contempt judgment is also divided into two types – criminal contempt and civil contempt. A criminal contempt charge bears a heavier burden of proof than a civil charge – beyond a reasonable doubt versus a preponderance of evidence, respectively – but allows the judge to impose unconditional penalties. On the other hand, the ‘punishment’ for a civil charge is usually incarceration, contingent on compliance with the violated court order; as soon as the contemnor fulfills his or her obligation, he or she is released.
For more information about enforcing a court order, contact the Denton family law attorneys at Alexander & Associates by calling 972-420-6560.
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