Punishment [Sentence] and Penalties for Contempt of Court in California Family Court
Following the contempt proceedings, wherein the contemnor will have been afforded all of the due process rights of any criminal defendant pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, and upon a contempt adjudication for violation of a valid court order made under the Family Code, the court “shall order” community service and/or imprisonment as prescribed by California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1218(c). This language makes punishment in family law contempt proceedings mandatory. Section 1218(c) provides that for each act (count) of contempt, the convicted party shall be fined up to $1,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 5 days. The contemnor must also be ordered to pay an administrative fee not exceeding the “actual cost” of the contemnor’s administration and supervision while assigned to a community service program (Cal Civ. Proc. Code § 1218(c)(3)(B)).
Penalty for 1st Contempt Finding
Upon a first finding of contempt, the convicted party must be ordered to perform community service of up to 120 hours, or be imprisoned for up to 120 hours (5 days), for each count of contempt for which the party was convicted (Cal Civ. Proc. Code § 1218(c)(1)).
Penalty for 2nd Contempt Finding
If there is a second contempt finding, the contemnor must be ordered to perform community service of up to 120 hours and be imprisoned for up to 120 hours for each count of contempt for which the party was convicted (Cal Civ. Proc. Code § 1218(c)(2)).
Penalty for 3rd Contempt Finding
If there is a third contempt finding, the contemnor must be ordered to perform community service of up to 240 hours and be imprisoned for up to 240 hours for each count of contempt for which the party was convicted (Cal Civ. Proc. Code § 1218(c)(3)(A)).
The court must take into account a contemnor’s employment schedule when ordering community service or imprisonment. It would be counter-intuitive to have such punishments interfere with a contemnor’s employment, especially when the conviction is based on violation of a child support or spousal support order. The court will consider what kind of family court order the contemnor violated in fashioning the sentence that seems appropriate in any given case, but the discretion is less vast in this arena than in many other areas of family law.
Of course, the goal of these punishments is for the contemnor to cease violating the relevant family court order (i.e. order regarding child custody, property division, relocation of a child, etc.) in the underlying divorce, paternity, legal separation, annulment, adoption, or domestic violence case. However, persuading the contemnor that violating the court order is not in his/her best interest because he/she will face further punishment is not the only goal of these contempt proceedings. Parties in family law matters have a right to a remedy when the opposing party violates the court’s orders. The knowledge that in the event the other party does not perform under the terms of a stipulated agreement or court order the court will punish that party for non-compliance creates trust and security for the people who enter the family court seeking help from the judicial system. No one would follow court orders if there was no consequence for violations.
Attorney’s Fees and Costs for Contempt Action
In addition to the penalties above, a party found in contempt for violating a court order “may” be ordered to pay the charging party’s reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred in connection with the contempt proceeding (Cal Civ. Proc. Code § 1218(a)). The court is not mandated to award attorneys fees; it is a discretionary function of the court.
Riverside Contempt Attorneys Combining Knowledge & Skill With Compassion & Dedication
Our experience inside and outside of the courtroom allows us to consistently deliver exceptional results for the litigants we represent. Our Riverside contempt attorneys are interested in finding tailored solutions to each litigant’s problems, using the facts and investigative tactics necessary to produce real-time solutions for our clients.
Our skilled attorneys will advise you every step of the way, so this contentious and frustrating process becomes less challenging and more palatable from beginning to end.
If you anticipate a contempt proceeding is (or should be) imminent in your life, it is important to know that a Riverside contempt attorney can help you understand the process, so you can temper your anxiety about what’s to come. We can help get you there faster, so you can get your life back on track.
Contact Our Experienced Riverside, California Contempt Attorney Now
Litigants can rely on the experience of our Riverside contempt attorneys in filing, prosecuting, and defending contempt actions. Our Southern California family law firm fights hard to make the legal system work for our clients. Contact our accomplished and dedicated Riverside contempt lawyers today by calling 951-888-3300 to learn how our experienced contempt attorney, Colleen Sparks, can guide you through the court process in a prompt and clear manner.
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