If you are experiencing child custody, paternity, or guardianship issues, you may face the reality of being summoned to a case in family court. But what is family court? What happens if someone is found in contempt of family court?

If you are attempting to bring a contempt case against a third party, a Los Angeles family law attorney can help you understand the steps you need to settle your legal matter.

Defining Family Court

Family court in California is the division of law that has jurisdiction over domestic matters. According to the Superior Court of California, family court is “designed to resolve disagreements arising from divorce and legal separation, including provisions for the care of children.”

Here are the types of civil issues that will be most likely seen in family court:

  • Spousal Support, Alimony, and Child Support
  • Child Custody and Visitation Arrangements
  • Property, Debt, and Asset Division
  • Marriage, Divorce, and Domestic Partnership Dissolution
  • Domestic Violence and Abuse

Defining Contempt of Family Court

Contempt occurs when “when a party is ordered to do something and fails to do it,” pursuant to the Superior Court of California’s guidelines on contempt actions.

Elements of Contempt of Family Court Orders

For a judge to determine if an individual is in contempt of a court order in family court, several elements must be present. In the state of California, a court order must be in writing, either filed with the clerk or added to the minutes, but not included in the judgment.

Failure to adhere to any of the court’s decrees that come out of these cases can result in a charge of contempt of court.

Statute of Limitations to File Contempt of Family Court

If the contempt relates to a support payment, the litigating party has three years from the date of the missed payment to initiate contempt proceedings. Additionally, each missed payment can be filed as a separate count of contempt of court.

You have two years from the alleged occurrence to file a contempt action if the incident doesn’t relate to support payments.

What is the process to file contempt of family court?

To successfully file contempt of family court, you must fill out and file a set of specific forms including:

  • Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Contempt
  • Affidavit of Facts Constituting Contempt (Financial and Injunctive Orders)
  • Affidavit of Facts Constituting Contempt (Domestic Violence/Custody and Visitation)
  • Proof of Personal Service
  • Income and Expense Declaration (Optional)

Additional documentation to support your case may be submitted with your forms. After submitting your fee or fee waiver to the clerk, you will need to have your third party served with the Order to Show Cause and Affidavit 16 days before your hearing date.

What is the Punishment for Contempt of Family Court?

If the contemptor is found guilty, they could experience either punitive or civil coercive charges. The punishment for either of these could be fines, imprisonment, community service, or paying the opposing party’s attorney fees.