Littleton Family Law Blog
August 18, 2016 Vol. 1.2
by Craig Franklin Chambers, Esq.
The Littleton Lawyer
As a Littleton lawyer focusing on family and divorce law in Littleton, Lakewood, Centennial, South Suburban, Denver, Highlands Ranch, Roxborough Park, and Unincorporated South Jefferson County, one of the biggest problems a person faces in a divorce is making sure the other party follows the court's orders.
In a domestic case, there are often orders regarding child support, spousal maintenance, sale of the marital home and other financial matters. If the party fails to pay the amounts the court order, you need to go back to court to get the court's orders enforced. I mean, what's the point of a court order if no one follows it?
Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure 107 allows for a party to file for a contempt citation to ensure the court's orders are followed. There are two types of contempt under the rule: punitive and remedial.
A punitive contempt --which is rare--is a quasi criminal sanction for offending the "authority or dignity" of the court. It usually applies if you disrespect the court. This is interpreted as repeatedly failing to follow the court's directives or totally disregarding a court's order. A punitive contempt is quasi-criminal proceeding that could result in up to 180 days in jail as punishment.
The problems with a punitive contempt are two-fold: first, the standard of proof is that you must prove the contempt by beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the higher and more difficult burden to prove. This is because a punitive contempt is a quasi-criminal proceeding. Second, if what you are seeking is for the order to be followed, the punitive contempt does not necessarily order that the person comply with the order. Instead, a punitive contempt punishes the ex for offending the dignity of the court.
Usually, to enforce an order, say for example, for unpaid child support, a person requests remedial sanction under the civil contempt section of the rule. A remedial sanction is one which the offending can remedy --or purge the contempt-- by simply following the order.
The complaining party in a civil contempt must show that the offending party was aware of the court's order, has the present ability to follow the order, and intentionally failed to comply with the order. The judge can order the offending party to jail until he "purges" the contempt. That means, the offending party will go to jail until he pays some of the amount of money he owes as determined by the judge.
It's not contempt if the party cannot prove the offending party has the present ability to pay. If in the child support example, you fall behind on your child support because you are ill or because you lose your job, the contempt proceeding will likely fail.
Still, the judges have a saying: "If your choice is between paying child support or sleeping under a bridge, pick a warm bridge."
Judges expect their orders to be followed, and you take the risk of crossing the judge, paying fines, the other side's attorneys fees, and going to jail for up to 180 days , if you do not fully comply with the court's order.