Contempt of Court Colorado –The Basics
If you believe your ex-spouse or the other parent in your case has violated a court order, you may be able to file contempt against him or her.
Is This the Best Remedy?
If the other party has violated a court order, you are generally entitled to file contempt against him or her. However, this may not be the best course of action. After filing a contempt motion, it may take several months to get into Court. If you need a quick remedy, there may be a better way to proceed. If the violation is a parenting time issue, you may get more traction by filing a “Verified Motion Concerning Parenting Disputes,” or you may want to request a status conference with the Court. If back child support is owed, you may want to file a Motion for a Judgment or an Income Assignment.
Before you file a contempt motion, it may be helpful to consult with an attorney to determine if this will best accomplish the remedy you are seeking when the other party is violating an order.
If, after proper consideration, you still wish to pursue a contempt motion, then you must file a Verified Motion and Affidavit for Citation for Contempt of Court and a proposed Order to Issue Citation and Citation to Show Cause. Once these documents are filed, the Court may grant the Order to Issue Citation and set the first hearing which is called the “advisement.” You must serve this order on the other party; service can be completed with the help of a sheriff or a private process server.
At the advisement, the party whom the contempt is issued against will be able to plead guilty or not guilty. This party will be read an advisement as to his or her rights, and the actual hearing on the contempt issues will be set at this time. At the advisement, the Court will determine if the alleged contemnor is entitled to court-appointed counsel.
If the alleged contemnor fails to appear at the advisement hearing, the Court may issue a bench warrant for the person’s arrest to secure the attendance at a future date and time.
Finally, at the hearing the moving party must prove that the other party is in either remedial and/or punitive contempt of court. Generally, if a party is found to be in contempt, then a sentencing hearing is set. At the sentencing hearing, the Court will then sentence a party.
Punitive vs. Remedial Contempt
A party can ask that the court find the other party guilty of remedial and/or punitive contempt. There are different standards to prove each type of contempt, and, also different remedies for each type.
In punitive contempt the moving party is asking the Court to punish the alleged contemnor with a definitive fixed sentence to vindicate the dignity of the Court. In remedial contempt, the moving party is seeking to have the Court craft a sentence which gives the alleged contemnor an incentive to come into compliance with the Court’s orders and which sentence will end when the alleged contemnor proves that he or she has come into compliance with the court’s orders.
The burden of proof in punitive contempt is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The elements of punitive contempt are 1) that there was a lawful order of court, 2) that the alleged contemnor knew about the order, 3) that the alleged contemnor had the ability to comply with the court’s order and failed to comply, and 4) that the failure to comply on the part of the alleged contemnor was “willful.” Willful in this context means “voluntarily, knowingly, and with conscious regard for the consequences of one’s conduct.
The burden of proof in a remedial contempt is preponderance of the evidence. The elements of remedial contempt are 1) that there was a lawful order of court, 2) that the alleged contemnor knew about the order and failed to comply, 3) that the alleged contemnor has the current ability to comply with the court’s orders.
Potential Remedies in Contempt Hearings
The potential remedies in a contempt case include a jail sentence not to exceed six months, a fine, judgment of monies owed, and attorney fees. It is important to note that attorney fees are not awarded to parties seeking punitive contempt.
As stated initially, these remedies may not be what you are truly seeking, especially, for parenting time violations. If you file a Motion Concerning Parenting Time Disputes, there are many more remedies you can obtain, including make-up parenting time, a bond required by the offending parent to ensure future compliance, court-ordered family therapy, etc.
The contempt process can take a long time, can sometimes be expensive to pursue in terms of attorney fees, and may not accomplish what you need. Sometimes, however, it is absolutely necessary to file a contempt motion. It is helpful to consult with an attorney to determine what your options are and how to proceed if another party is not following a court order.