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What is contempt of court in a divorce case?

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2020 | Divorce |

In Alabama and elsewhere, judges want individuals to follow their orders. If that does not happen, a judge may hold the noncompliant party in contempt of court. For family law matters, such as divorce, contempt of court may have significant consequences.

Anyone who fails to comply with a court order is vulnerable to contempt of court charges. While not paying child support is often the source of such a charge, it may also happen in divorce proceedings. For example, if a spouse hides assets or does not comply with financial disclosure requirements, he or she may be in contempt of court.

The process

If a judge believes a person is not complying with a court order, he or she may bring contempt of court charges. This requires the charged party to appear before the judge in a separate court hearing. If the person refuses to appear, the judge may choose to issue an arrest warrant.

Petitions for Rule Nisi

On their own, judges may not have enough information to determine if a person is complying with a court order. The person’s ex-spouse, however, likely does. If an individual believes his or her ex-spouse is not following a divorce-related court order, he or she may file a Petition for Rule Nisi. Essentially, this petition requires the other person to explain in open court why he or she is not complying with the court’s demands.


Judges enjoy wide latitude to control what happens in their courtrooms. If a judge holds a party in contempt of court, he or she may impose a variety of penalties.

First, though, the judge is likely to try to coax the offending party into abiding by the court order. If that does not work, the judge may rework the order to disadvantage the contemptuous party. He or she may also throw the offender in jail or order the payment of legal fees.

Contempt of court is a serious matter. Nevertheless, if a spouse has chosen not to respect the court’s authority, there may be no choice in pursuing charges.