Skip to main content

Contempt in Family Law

San Jose, CA |

Bitter divorce, I've always been pro per, she used to be represented but ran out of money. She has been violating multiple orders. Supposed to bring kids for Christmas didn't do it. Transferred $200k from joint account into private account. Dumps my things in front of the house. I became fed up and filed for contempt. Pleadings show that there were orders, she was aware of them, she could follow them but chose not to.

Judge would not arraign her until she had opportunity to consult with appointed defense counsel. Is it typical for the Courts to appoint counsel for contempt defense? What is likely to happen?

Attorney Answers 4


  1. Yes, it is typical. Contempt citations bring the risk of penalties and jail time if the judge finds her guilty. These potential penalties qualify contempt actions as "quasi criminal" actions. Under the U.S. Constitution, anyone facing potential court penalties such as these has the right to representation of counsel.

    Legal disclaimer: The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of California. Responses are based solely on California law unless stated otherwise.


  2. Courts typically appoint the public defender to defend those who are subject to criminal prosecution. The public defender will only get involved, however, if they meet certain financial guidelines proliferated by the Public Defender's office.

    The Public Defender's office, in their first meetings with her, will evaluate whether or not she meets the income guidelines. If she makes too much money they will not be able to represent her and she will be on her own. A decision on that will be made at your next hearing. If she makes too much money the public defender will motion to withdraw and that motion will be granted.


  3. Yes, she is entitled to a public defender if she cannot afford an attorney on her own.

    If you found this answer helpful, let me know by clicking the "Mark as Helpful" button or "Best Answer" at the bottom of this answer. By answering this question, the Law Offices of Cathleen E. Norton does not intend to form an attorney-client relationship with the asking party. The answers posted on this website should not be construed as legal advice. The Law Offices of Cathleen E. Norton does not make any representations about your family law matter, but rather, seeks to provide general information to the public about family-law related matters. You should consult with an attorney to discuss the specific facts of your case. Thank you.


  4. Since contempt is quasi criminal and could result in fines and possibly imprisonment (though unlikely), the courts will always err on the side of not violating due process rights and rights to counsel. If you had a lawyer, you could probably recover attorneys' fees for indirect contempt! Make sure you study up on contempt proceedings as they can be mini-trials and lots of procedural rules. Have fun!!

    This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship between Jassim & Associates or any of its attorneys. We are not your attorney unless we both sign a written contract that describes our relationship and terms, the scope of our representation, and terms of payment for representation. Any information provided to you here should not be construed as legal advice, and an in detail review of the facts of your matter would likely affect any information provided. There could be deadlines to act in any case, after which your legal rights could be lost forever. You should contact an attorney licensed in your state immediately to be sure your rights are protected.

Family law topics

Top tips from attorneys

What others are asking

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer

Browse all legal topics