Do I have to provide evidence of my claims when I am responding to a contempt motion?

Asked over 1 year ago - Snohomish, WA

In my response to a contempt claim I told my side of the issue and recollection of events of what I was told but I don't have any evidence or proof of my statements. Do I need this or is the burden to disprove my statements the moving parties responsibility?

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Robert P Dickson

    Contributor Level 7

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    Answered . Reading between the lines a little, it seems to me that you must have failed to comply with some order that was issued by a court. Depending on what exactly you've done to violate that order may alter how (or if) this question may be answered. The initial burden of proof is upon the party bringing the motion. Here, they would have to show that you violated an order that was properly issued by the court. Now, to contest that motion, and assuming that the other side has provided enough evidence to show that there was a basis to find that there should be a contempt order signed, you must provide evidence to the contrary (obviously).

    If you are representing yourself pro se (meaning without an attorney and basically on your own), then a court is likely going to give you a bit more rope when reviewing your responsive pleadings. However, what I would recommend that you do is generate a declaration (a signed statement made under penalty of perjury) and attach it to your response. Technically, a declaration can be used as evidence (kind of like the same way a testimony in court does), so a signed declaration would be helpful to add. See if you can find ANY possible shred of evidence, such as emails, receipts, invoices, anything written, and add it to the declaration as an exhibit.

    Of course, the smartest move might simply be to try and comply with the underlying order to begin with, but as I don't know the circumstances beyond what you've described, it's hard to know exactly what to recommend.

  2. Robert Bruce Kopelson

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . Im not licensed in Wa so cant say how it works there, but generally the moving party must show there was a court order, you were aware of it, and you wilfully failed to comply. Then the burden shifts to you to show any of those arent true. Different states have different burdens of proof on contempt, like more probable than not, versus beyond a reasonable doubt. Some states have criminal penalties like jail, and will provide public defender if deft qualifies. having proof other than just your word, is always better. You should consult with a local atty.

  3. Constantine D. Buzunis

    Contributor Level 17

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    Answered . I agree with the responses from the other attorneys. Sounds like you allegedly failed to comply with a court order or violated a court order. You will need to have admissible evidence and/or witnesses that will support your claim that you did not violate a court order, otherwise it is your word against the other side or the court making the claim that you did in fact violate the court order? Get yourself a lawyer to help you avoid the serious consequences of a contempt order!

    Legal disclaimer:This message does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.... more
  4. Charles Michael Tobin

    Pro

    Contributor Level 12

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    Answered . In many jurisdictions a civil contempt hearing is called "a show cause hearing". Perhaps that phrase can help you understand the process. The court will issue a "show cause order", perhaps based on an affidavit filed by the opposing party, to give you the opportunity to show cause why you should not be held in contempt. At that hearing you should be prepared not merely to testify but to present, if at all available, some kind of corroborating evidence. For example, if the court had ordered you to remove a fence from the property of another, you could testify that you had done so and present a dated photograph showing the fence was gone or moved. If the court ordered you not to do somthing. You might produce a witness or other evidence to show that you were elsewhere when it is alleged that you did the prohibited act. There are a host of situations where the same ideas are applicable. I hope this helps. The bottom line is that one can not rely solely on the weakness of an opponent's claim but, intead, be prepared to take the affirmative. A contempt finding is can follow one for a long time.

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