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Behavior Matters: How to Avoid Being Held in Contempt of Court During Your Divorce

An unusual amount of focus is paid on your behavior during divorce proceedings. Both in court and outside, you are meant to be proving your own good character. When you fail to do so, you could be held in contempt and face penalties.

What Does it Mean to Be Held in Contempt?

To be held in contempt of court means to break the rules set by the court. These rules can be written or unwritten and can be in the form of breaking an official court order or misbehaviour in the courtroom. These are known as indirect and direct violations, respectively.

Indirect violations occur outside of court. An example of a direct violation would be refusing to respect a court ordered restraining order or failing to pay child support. This shows a disregard for the judge’s rulings and if done while the trial is still underway can influence the court to favor the other party.

Direct violations occur within the courtroom when the offender shows a blatant disrespect towards the judge or anyone else in the room. This can be exemplified by insulting language and/or refusal to follow rules and protocol.

How Can Being Held in Contempt Affect a Case?

Being held in contempt can have both direct and indirect impacts. The direct impacts can come in the form of remedial and punitive contempt, or the court’s response to the actions.

 Remedial contempt refers to punishments that are meant to persuade the offender into complying. If the violation was the offender refusing to pay alimony, the remedial contempt may be in the form of jail time until the proper amount is paid.

Punitive contempt is ordered as a response to an act of disrespect to the court and is a direct punishment. Courts order punitive contempt to discourage offenders from continuing their behavior.

Whether the offender is being held in punitive or remedial contempt, it is unlikely that the court will view their case favorably. In cases as subjective and emotional as divorces, a single instance of disrespect for the court can have disastrous repercussions.

Avoiding Being Held in Contempt

In order to ensure your case goes as smoothly as possible, you will want to avoid being held in contempt at all costs. Even a single instance can turn favor against you, and multiple can signify a pattern of disrespect.

While direct violations are seen more commonly in the media, with arguments erupting in courtrooms over a judge banging their gavel, indirect violations are much more common. Contempt orders are most commonly given for actions done outside of court, away from the judge. In these cases, there is usually a hearing where the violation has to be proven. To avoid an indirect violation, make sure to follow all of the rules set by the judge. If you are worried about your ability to fulfill your duties for financial or other reasons your best course of action is to speak with your lawyer. They can help you make an appeal to the court and try to have your responsibilities adjusted. Simply refusing to follow orders is never your best option when it comes to the law.

If you are worried about committing a direct violation, your best option is still to speak with your attorney. They can help to remove you from a stressful situation to preserve your dignity and protect your case. Tensions can rise rapidly during divorces, making it vital that you maintain a respectful and collected presence. Failure to do so can have disastrous results.

How a Lawyer Will Help You

As previously mentioned, a lawyer can help keep you out of trouble both inside and outside of the courtroom. Your lawyer will be your advocate, fighting for your best interests and helping to mitigate the damage if you do get in trouble. If you want to learn more about how orders of contempt can impact a divorce case and the divorce process, read the comprehensive Griffiths Guide to Divorce, which provides details on every step of a divorce.

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