What happens if you are found in contempt of court?

Being found in contempt of court is serious business. It means that even after defending yourself, the Judge in your case still believed that you could have complied with the court order, but chose not to. So what happens if you are found in contempt of court?

This probably isn’t what you were expecting.

It’s pretty rare that someone goes into court knowing they totally disregarded a court order. Often, people believe they are acting reasonably. Maybe they have let a child make decisions about going to visitation, thinking they are acting in the child’s best interest. Maybe they quit their job to avoid paying support thinking that if they had no income, they wouldn’t have to pay support. That’s simply not the case. The law says that if you brought the circumstances upon yourself, then you can’t use them as a defense. So, if you have no income to pay support because you chose to quit your job, then having no income is not a sufficient reason for not paying support. 

Accept responsibility for the act of contempt.

If you already did it, there’s not much you can do to pour spilled milk back into the carton. We all make mistakes. We’ve all said or done things we wish we hadn’t. The easiest path forward is to accept responsibility and learn from our mistakes. Anything else keeps us stuck in anger or self pity – and dooms us to make the same mistakes again. 

The consequences of being found in contempt can be serious.

So, what happens if you are found in contempt of court? For starters, if the issue was financial, it means a judgment will be entered. The party granted the judgment can use it to collect the monies owed. Depending on your income and assets and the effort they use to collect the monies due to them, they could seize certain assets or have your wages garnished. They can record the judgment, effectively liening your home. They can report it to one or all of the three major credit bureaus, negatively impacting your credit. 

Beyond that, you will likely be ordered to pay some or all of the other parties’ attorneys fees, increasing the total amount you owe. Even if the issue was not financial in nature, attorneys fees will almost certainly be awarded if you are held in contempt. 

Other possible punishments for contempt include a fine of up to $500 or even up to 25 days in jail. It’s pretty rare that someone is jailed for contempt in a family law case. The chances you’d be jailed for violating your Decree of Divorce are low but never zero. 


Gloria Petroni is a licensed Nevada Attorney with over 40 years of experience. She is a family law specialist and practices in the areas of family law, probate and estate planning. This article is meant to be informative. It is not a substitute for legal advice. Every case is different. If you have questions about your case, you should contact a Nevada licensed attorney. We would love to hear from you.

At Petroni Law Group, our goal is to provide each and every client with an unobstructed view of all aspects of a case by aiding in informed decision-making and clear understanding of possible outcomes.

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