Civil contempt is when a movant asks the Court to hold another in violation of a court order. To establish a prima facie case of civil contempt, the complaining party must prove (1) the contemnor’s obligation to perform or refrain from an action as required by the decree; and (2) the contemnor’s failure to meet the Court ordered obligation. A contemnor may defend against charges of civil contempt by saying that he/she was unable to comply with the requirements of the Court’s Order and his/her inability to comply was not the consequence of his/her own intentional and contumacious conduct.
If the Court finds that the contemnor is indeed in contempt of court, then litigation sanctions or even jail time may be implemented. Furthermore, the complaining party’s attorney’s fees incurred in conjunction, filing, and prosecution of the contempt motion may be awarded by the court.
Although it seems axiomatic that Court orders should always be followed, people do not always take that to heart. Many child support or child custody decrees and/or parenting plans are not always observed, necessitating contempt proceedings. It is also not uncommon that a party may violate a court’s temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction, thus warranting a contempt order.