Contempt Of Court
Are you being accused of being in contempt of a Court Order? Are you being threatened with contempt for not paying child support? Are you denying access or visitation to a child’s parent? Are you being denied visitation with your child? Are you being threatened with contempt for denying visitation? Are you not paying court ordered alimony? Are you not receiving court ordered alimony? Have you asked yourself: “Can I go to jail for non-payment of child support; or, Can I go to jail for denying access; or, Can I go to jail for not paying alimony?” Do you know what the consequences are for being found in contempt by a Maryland Court?
We at Shechtel and Associates, P.A. know the answers to the above questions, and more, about contempt. We can advise you on what the consequences are for your, or someone else’s, failure to obey a lawful order of court. There are two types of contempt: criminal and civil. Civil contempt is generally the failure to comply with a court order. Criminal contempt charges are punitive – they punish the offender no matter what happened in another proceeding. Contempt can be either in court (direct contempt) or out of court (indirect contempt). We know the difference between criminal and civil contempt. So we know what to do if you are accused of being in direct contempt, such as being disrespectful to a judge, disruption of a legal proceeding, or the publication of materials that could jeopardize a trial. We also know how to prosecute and defend contempt matters.
If a party (whether it be a person, corporation, or organization):
• fails to obey an Order of Court; and,
• has knowledge of the Court Order; and,
• had the ability to comply with the Court’s Order; then the offending party can be held in contempt.
For a party to be held in civil contempt:
• a complaining party must first file a (complaint or motion for contempt) Petition for Contempt with the Court where the Order was issued; and then,
• The Court upon receipt of the Petition for Contempt will either issue an Order to Show Cause or a Summons; and then,
• After the Show Cause Order (or summons) is issued by the Court Clerk, both the Show Cause Order and the Petition for Contempt must be served upon the offending party by personal service (service of process); and then,
Upon receipt of service of process, the accused must answer the Show Cause Order and the Petition as to why they should not be held in contempt. Thereafter, both the accuser and the accused must appear before the Court on the date and time appearing in the Show Cause Order for a hearing on the Contempt Petition (a/k/a Contempt Hearing). Failure to appear for the Contempt Hearing is in and of itself contempt and can result in the issuance of a body attachment for the party that fails to appear.
Following the Contempt Hearing, the Judge has few alternatives.
 The Judge can find that the accused was not in Contempt;
 The Judge can find that the accused was in Contempt but has no ability to purge the contempt; or,
 The Judge can find that the accused was in Contempt, order sanctions and set provisions that the accused must meet to purge their contempt.
Various forms of purge provisions can be ordered. Purge provisions may include: payment of money, injunctive relief, imposition of a monetary judgment, levy of property, incarceration, or anything else that a court deems appropriate. In cases of failure to provide access, the court can order anything from “make up time” to a modification of residential custody.
In the typical family law case, for a person to be held in contempt, the accusing party must prove to the court that:
1 – There was a valid court order; and,
2 – The accused party knew of the court order;
3 – The accused party violated the court order;
4 – The accused party had the ability to comply with the court order;
5 – The accused party received proper notice of the contempt hearing; and finally,
6 – Contempt is the appropriate remedy for the infraction/situation.
Most often, contempt in domestic or family law cases can arise from:
– Failure (non-payment) to pay child support;
– Failure to pay alimony;
– Failure to pay the marital award;
– Failure to pay court ordered attorney’s fees;
– Failure to pay a doctor’s bill or some other medical services bill;
– Failure to provide medical insurance;
– Failure to sign documents for a QDRO;
– Failure to sign a car title or other document to transfer title;
– Failure to provide access with a minor child.
But my no means is the above list exhaustive. We have been involved in cases where a party has been accused of:
– Failure to vacate;
– Failure to pay for college tuition;
– Failure to pay for summer camp;
– Failure to pay for life insurance;
– Failure to pay the mortgage or rent;
– Failure to pay private school tuition;
– Failure to pay for the child’s tutors;
– Failure to pay credit cards;
– Failure to pay day care;
– Failure to stop stalking;
– Failure to provide an insurance card;
– Failure to timely return the children after the end of access periods;
– Failure to abstain from being stoned on drugs both before or during an access period;
– Failure to abstain from imbibing alcohol before and during an access period;
– Failure to complete substance abuse counseling;
– Not using child safety seats while transporting a child;
And much, much more.
We know the defenses to contempt. We know the difference between disobedience, and an inability to comply with an order of court. And we know how to present your case to the Court for the best possible outcome. If you are found to be in contempt for non-payment of child support, or insufficient child support payments, you could be sent to jail, lose your driver’s license, lose any vocational permits or licenses, or have your property seized. Your credit score will most likely suffer too.
Contempt can occur during any phase of a case. A party may use (or be held in) contempt at any time during a divorce of custody case. Contempt may be an appropriate remedy at any time after a court issues an order, whether that order is temporary or final. In situations involving domestic violence (whether that order is an Interim Domestic Violence Protective Order; Temporary Domestic Violence Protective Order; or a Final Domestic Violence Protective Order), contempt will frequently be deemed criminal and the offending party faces a serious risk of being incarcerated.
Maryland’s statute for contempt can be found at Md Code Ann. §1-202. §1-202 provides that a court may exercise the power to punish for contempt of court or to compel compliance with its commands in the manner prescribed by Chapter 200 Title 15 of the Maryland Rules. The Statute further provides that a person who has been adjudicated guilty of contempt for failure to pay a monetary amount specified in a decree or order, is not barred by reason of the adjudication of contempt from filing a petition for modification of the decree or order, or for requesting any other relief, notwithstanding whether the contempt has not been purged or removed. Petitions to adjudicate a contempt may be consolidated at the discretion of the court and heard along with the petition for contempt.
The Rules for civil contempt can be located at Maryland Rule 15-206. Constructive Criminal contempt in cases involving labor disputes are found in Md. Code Ann Lab&Emp §4-322. Md Rules 15-203 and 15-205 deal with direct and criminal contempt.
If you are faced with a contempt action, there are ways to have the action dismissed. There are other defenses too, including asking the court to modify the underlying Order. If you are falsely accused, you may be able to get the opposing party to pay your attorney’s fees. Conversely, if you are found to be in contempt, you could be ordered to pay the other party’s attorneys’ fees. Remember if you are found to be in contempt, one of the sanctions available to the Court is incarceration (jail).
If you have been served with a Petition for Contempt. Motion for Contempt. Order to Show Cause, Show Cause Order, or anything else that looks like a Complaint for Contempt, you have only a few days to hire competent legal counsel. You can and should defend yourself. You owe it to yourself to call Shechtel and Associates, P.A., even if it is only for our free telephone consultation. We have over twenty years experience defending and prosecuting contempt matters.
Call Shechtel and Associates, P.A. now to speak to your Maryland Contempt Lawyer. Our offices are conveniently located in downtown Rockville, MD within walking distance to the Rockville METRO stop on the Red Line. We are just steps away from the District Court of Maryland, and the Montgomery County Circuit Court.