When you read your Dissolution of Marriage Summons and Petition forms, you will see that the filing of a California divorce case itself results in an automatic court order, addressed to both spouses, to refrain from certain conduct without the permission of the other spouse or a specific court order.
Among the prohibited actions are moving a child to another state, changing the terms of any insurance policy, or transferring community property to another. Violations of any of the terms of the automatic court order will be regarded as contempt of court, and can be punished by a five-day jail term for each count.
You may also have temporary orders issued during the divorce proceeding such as for temporary support or temporary custody. These temporary orders and the orders that are issued as part of the final judgment of dissolution of marriage must be followed to avoid charges of contempt. If there is a valid court order and you have knowledge of the order, the ability to comply with the order and have willfully not followed the order you could be punished by a five-day jail term for each count. Violation of orders for monthly payment of support could result in contempt charges, or counts, for each month that payment is not made. You will probably also have to pay the other party's attorney fees as well.
Violations of particular orders can result in contempt proceedings. Whether your situation involves a failure to abide by orders concerning child custody, spousal support, disclosure of assets, or child support, contempt of court cases can be filed to enforce the performance of obligations prescribed in any or all of these orders.
Because you could receive a jail sentence for each count of contempt a contempt proceeding is referred to as “quasi-criminal.” A judge will advise you of your constitutional rights just as in a criminal case. However, unlike criminal cases you have no right to a jury trial.
If you need advice about enforcing your basic rights to fair and honest treatment in a divorce proceedings, or if you've been threatened or charged with contempt of court, I can provide the assistance you need.
If you are defending against a contempt of court charge, I will help you find ways to demonstrate your willingness and ability to work within the Family Code rules and help to protect you from being found in contempt.
With more than 30 years of family law experience I can advise you on how to prove contempt of a Family Court order, and what violations are likely to be of greatest concern in your case.
Domestic violence restraining orders can be enforced either by contempt proceedings or by criminal prosecution, which is an entirely separate proceeding charged by the District Attorney's Office.
For answers to specific questions concerning contempt of Family Court in your case, contact me, John S. Yohanan, a San Jose family lawyer, at (408) 297-0700 or via my online form.