The trial court sentenced plaintiff to serve three days in jail and required plaintiff to pay defendant $500 as a condition of her release from jail.
The parties divorced in 2008 and were awarded joint legal and physical custody of their child, who was then five. Since that time, there have been numerous challenges and changes to the child’s custody arrangement.
At an earlier proceeding, the child testified that defendant forced him to falsely accuse plaintiff and her husband of injuring and physically abusing him. The relationship between defendant and the child became very strained. During this time, defendant’s parenting time was limited to the weekly joint counseling sessions with the child. The trial court ordered the parties to follow the recommendations of the child’s psychologist, which required that plaintiff not allow the child to control whether he would follow the trial court’s orders and attend the counseling sessions, and required plaintiff to reassure the child that he would be safe in the counseling sessions with defendant.
After problems arose with the child attending the court-ordered counseling sessions, the trial court, on defendant’s motion, ordered plaintiff to appear for a hearing to show cause why she should not be held in contempt for violating the court’s previous parenting time orders. Following a hearing, the trial court found plaintiff in contempt for violating that order. It sentenced her to three days in jail and required her to pay defendant $500 as a condition of her release from jail.
A contempt proceeding for failure to comply with a parenting time order is generally considered civil in nature. Criminal contempt is intended to punish the contemnor for past conduct that affronts the dignity of the court. On the other hand, if the court employs its contempt power to coerce compliance with a present or future obligation or to reimburse the complainant for costs incurred by the contemptuous behavior, including attorney fees, the proceedings are civil. The trial court, by holding plaintiff in contempt, intended to coerce her going forward into complying with its multiple orders.
If you are going through a divorce or are separating from the mother or father of your children, it is important to protect your custodial rights. If you and your child's other parent cannot agree on the terms of your custody and visitation arrangements, you will need strong representation to preserve your right to remain involved in your child's life. Contact Aldrich Legal Services to schedule a free consultation with one of our family law attorneys.