What if you’re the one in contempt?

Recently, we’ve been discussing the issue of contempt and what happens when someone violates a court order

But what should you do if you’re the one who has violated the Court’s order? What if you’re the one in contempt?

Be proactive to avoid contempt.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “The best defense is a good offense.” That rings true when it comes to failing to meet your obligations under a court order. Rather than fall behind on your support payments after a job loss or pay cut, you should immediately seek to modify your support obligations so that you can meet them. 

Even when the issue is less cut and dry, you can take action immediately to avoid violating a court order. If your child refuses to visit the other parent or if you believe that doing so could put them in harm’s way, you should seek legal advice about the options available to you. It may be as simple as communicating with the other parent and arranging to get your child in therapy to help them develop the tools they need to navigate a difficult time in his or her life. If you’re concerned about your child’s immediate safety, you may need to contact an attorney to assess your options for emergency relief or a modification of custody. 

Try to make it right.

That’s all well and good, but what should you do if you’ve already violated a Court order or the Court has issued an Order to Show Cause against you? Most people aren’t flagrantly disregarding court orders. When someone fails to pay their support or live up to other obligations, there’s usually a reason. That reason is your first defense. While it won’t get you out of paying what you owe, a valid reason for not following the court’s order may prevent you from being held in contempt of court.

Being held in contempt of court comes with additional penalties beyond just enforcing the existing order. Those penalties can include a fine, attorney’s fees, make up time,  and in some cases even jail time. Valid defenses for failure to follow a court order are limited to those reasons observed by law — common sense reasons may not always work as a defense.  For that reason, it’s best to have an attorney advise you on your possible defenses. 

Do damage control.

If you don’t have a valid defense and you have the ability to comply with the order, do it. Even after you have violated an order, trying to make it right could go a long way in keeping you from being held in contempt.

This could be making a substantial payment against monies owed – or even paying in full what is already due. It might mean offering make up visitation to the parent who missed time with their child. Whatever the attempt to right the violation, it must be proportionate to the violation. For example, make up visitation should be day for day for the time missed.

Payment for monies owed should be substantial and include a plan to pay all monies owed within a reasonable amount of time. The more you can do to try to resolve the issue before you are standing in front of a judge, the better you are likely to fare.

Whatever your situation, defending against a contempt motion, which relies heavily on interpreting case law, can be complex. If you have questions about your case, you should contact a Nevada licensed attorney. 


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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