There are plenty of legal situations that can qualify as contempt. However, when you’re in court for family law, there are certain nuances you need to be aware of. Of course, some reasons for contempt of court in family law are more obvious. On the other hand, there are some situations you might not even consider until they actually come up. Contempt of court can come with some hefty consequences, so let’s go over the basics of what you need to know.

What Is Contempt of Court in Family Law?

In essence, contempt of court is when a person directly disobeys legal court. In family court, that means a person has violated family court orders, and that can happen in a variety of ways. Simply put, if it’s ordered in family court, and you don’t adhere to it, that means you can be found in contempt of court.

The first thing you need to know is exactly what qualifies as contempt of court. More specifically, you need to understand what it means in regards to family law. There are a handful of examples that are the most common reasons one parent or another might be charged with contempt of court. Here are the main ones:

Visitation issues

No matter which parent it is, visitation order violations are one of the main reasons for charging a parent with contempt of court. This can mean that one parent either doesn’t respect the visitation rights of the other parent, and won’t let them see the child (or children) at the specified time, or won’t return the child or children at the specified time.

This also means that both parties need to make an effort to make the visitation plan work, within reason. Being out of state does not typically qualify as an excuse for straying from the visitation plan.

Restraining order violations

Whether in or out of family court, restraining orders are not something the court takes lightly. When it does come to family court, violating a restraining order on either side quickly leads to a contempt of court charge. If there is a protective order or restraining order in place, both parties need to respect the terms thereof, or risk a contempt charge.

Neglect of support

One of the main reasons families end up in court is due to financial issues. Unfortunately, these same issues can grow exponentially when the party ordered to pay does not do so. While it isn’t something you hear about as often, support ordered by the court that goes unpaid can actually result in a contempt of court charge.

This doesn’t necessarily mean solely child support either. While unpaid child support may be a large issue, unpaid spousal support ordered by the court can cause just as many problems. The party truant on payments can receive a contempt of court charge, based on local regulations, and the severity of the backlog in payments.

Property issues

Even when in court for more family related issues, and not necessarily divorce, property issues can also lead to a charge of contempt. In many cases, issues of property division are already settled. However, that doesn’t mean each party will comply with court orders.

An example is when children are transferred from one parent to another, and one parent is expected to return certain property (for example, sports equipment, computers for school, etc.), and fails or refuses to do so. Failure to properly return property can also result in a contempt of court charge, simply because one parent won’t return property as ordered by the court.

What Happens if You’re Found in Contempt of Court in Family Law?

Whether intentionally or otherwise, if you end up in contempt of court for family law, there can be an array of consequences. Some are lesser, and may only result in fines or community service. In certain cases though, the consequences can be more severe. Depending on the judge, circumstances and violations, and local regulations, you might even face imprisonment.


If you’re unsure whether you might be charged with contempt of court in family law, or you’re already being charged, it’s best to hire a good family law attorney in Orlando. However, if you’re going through family court proceedings, you can avoid the unnecessary charges and complications of contempt of court by following court orders to the letter. Remember, if you have issues with court orders, ask for an amendment, rather than violate them.