Southern California Family Law Blog

Any family law case can be difficult to deal with, especially when one party refuses to comply with court orders like the family involved in this news clip. If you or someone you know is in a similar situation, a family law attorney can file for a contempt of court hearing to ensure that the court reinforces the order.[1]

What does it mean to be held in “Contempt of Court?”

When a person is in contempt of court, it usually means that the person is in violation of a court order. A contempt of court proceeding is criminal in nature.[2] Because being held in contempt of court is a crime, you can face serious criminal charges and should hire an experienced attorney immediately.

When can a Contempt of Court Action be filed in a Family Law Case?

contempt of court

Contempt of court cases

In a family law case, one party can be held in contempt for the following reasons:

  • Failure to pay court-ordered child support;
  • Failure to pay court-ordered spousal support;
  • Failure to pay court-ordered attorney fees;
  • Failure to seek gainful employment for the purposes of paying child support;
  • Violation of a domestic violence restraining order;
  • Violation of child custody or visitation orders;
  • Failure to divide community property assets in compliance with court orders; or
  • Failure to comply with mandatory declaration of disclosure orders.

If you are trying to hold someone in contempt for failure to pay child support or spousal support, you only have three (3) years from the date the payment was due. Otherwise, you waive your right to file a contempt case. When the violation does not have to do with failure to pay, you have even less time. If you are trying to hold someone in contempt for a violation other than failure to pay support, you must do so within two (2) years of the violation; otherwise you waive your right to file a contempt case. In order to file a contempt of court case, you need the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.

Consequences of being found in Contempt of Court

There are several consequences that result from being found in contempt. According to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1218(c), the possible penalties of contempt include:

  • Being sentenced to jail for up to five (5) days
  • Being sentenced to do community service for up to 120 hours
  • Being sentenced to pay a fine of up to $1000[3]

How can you petition to have the other party in your family law case held in contempt of court?


Contempt of court order

In order to hold the other party in your case in contempt of court, you must prove certain elements of the case to the family law court.

First, in order to have a valid claim against the person for contempt of court, you must show that there was a valid court order. The court order must indicate that the other party was ordered by the court to do something and he/she has not complied.

You must also prove that the other party had knowledge of the court order. You must then show that the person you intend to charge with contempt of court willfully violated the valid court order. You need to hire an experienced family law attorney in order to prove these elements in court and to ensure that the correct procedures are followed.

Rights of the Person being held in Contempt

A person accused of being in contempt of court has certain rights, including:

  • The right to be notified of the charges against him
  • The right to an attorney
  • The right to a hearing
  • The right to be discharged if the accuser cannot meet the burden of proving that the accused is actually in contempt of court

Call Wallin & Klarich Today

contempt of court attorneys

Call Wallin and Klarich today

At Wallin & Klarich, we understand that sometimes it is necessary to file a contempt of court case when the other party violates the order. If you are being held in contempt or wish to file a contempt case against the other part, you need to contact an experienced family law attorney immediately. Our knowledgeable attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully helping our clients with contempt of court cases. Let us help you today.

With offices located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Torrance, Riverside, West Covina, Victorville, Ventura, San Diego and Sherman Oaks, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to help you no matter where you are located.

Call us today at (888) 749-7428 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.


[1] Cal Fam Code § 292.

[3] Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 1218(c).

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