Contempt of court in Georgia means willful disobedience of a court order, like a divorce decree. Filing an application for citation of contempt against the party intentionally disobeying a court order is one way to enforce the court order.
What is contempt of court in Georgia?
The contempt remedy is one of the ways to enforce a court order in Georgia. If a party is found to be in contempt of a court order, it means that that party willfully violated that court order. “[T]he purpose of a contempt proceeding is to place the parties in as nearly the same position as they would have occupied had the [contemnor] obeyed the previous order from the outset, and the trial court is limited to exercising only that power necessary to enforce the terms of that order.” Mullins-Leholm v. Evans, 322 Ga.App. 869 (2013).
How to file a motion for contempt in Georgia
You would file a motion for contempt to begin the contempt proceeding in Georgia. Generally, you would file in the same court where the court order at issue was rendered. For example, if the final judgment and decree of divorce was entered in Cobb County Superior Court, then you would file the contempt action with Cobb County Superior Court. However, there are exceptions to this general rule regarding where to file contempt actions.
Also, a contempt proceeding is not a new civil action. Rather, it is a part of the primary action, such as a divorce case. That is, an action for contempt is a motion in nature.
Proving contempt of court in Georgia
In order to prove that the other party is in contempt of court in Georgia, you would need to present evidence at the contempt hearing to show that the other party willfully or intentionally violated a court order, like a divorce decree.
What happens when you are in contempt of court in Georgia?
Many things could happen if you are found to be in contempt. There are mainly two types of contempt: (1) criminal contempt; and (2) civil contempt. The court could punish criminal contempt “by fines not exceeding $1,000.00, by imprisonment not exceeding 20 days, or both.” O.C.G.A. § 15-6-8. For civil contempt, the court could order indefinite imprisonment until the contemnor purges himself or herself of the contempt.
Also, the court could award attorney’s fees.
How do you defend against contempt of court?
One of the ways to defend against contempt of court is to show that it was not possible for you to abide by the court order.
Another defense to a motion for contempt is the doctrine of unclean hands. The defense of unclean hands basically is an argument that the respondent should not be held in contempt of court because the petitioner’s action or inaction caused the respondent’s disobedience of the court order.
Chat with a Georgia divorce attorney about your options.