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What type of court order violations are considered contempt?

Lancaster, PA |

My wife and I are going through a messy divorce. I had to petition the court to compel the complete answers to the interrogatories for discovery. She falsified information that she was specifically ordered to provide and I do have proof.

I just want to make sure that this is something that qualifies for contempt proceedings before I begin moving in this direction.

I have brought this up to her attorney and I even pointed out the specific information that she lied about and pointed out the information she did not provide.

Attorney Answers 4


By law, anytime an order is not followed to the letter, contempt may inure. In practice, it's usually the egregious violations that draw the court's attention, but only if the other party actually files and requests contempt proceedings. For instance, refusing to bring the children to visitation 1 week is contempt, but the court won't usually act unless it's really bad, like refusing to bring the kids for visitation for 6 weeks.

In cases like yours that involve "lies". It really depends on the lie, its effect on the case, and how bad a lie it is. What was the lie about? Did it have a significant impact on the case, or was it just something that doesn't matter in the scheme of things? These are questions the court will ask. You also need to understand that in Lancaster, the judges will force you through a conference officer and then a settlement conference before you ever go to a judge. This means that in 99% of cases, you will effectively be forced to settle and drop the contempt charges long before you ever get to present the evidence to the judge. So, make sure you're making a stink about something that matters, because you're in for an uphill battle that will probably cost a lot of time and money in attorney fees.

Good Luck!

Attorney answers to questions are for general purposes only and do not establish an attorney-client relationship. This answer is meant for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice within the bounds of a professional relationship. It is always best to seek counsel with a competent attorney experienced in your area of issue and fully informed about the facts of your case.

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In theory, any violation of any court order can be sanctioned as contempt.

In practice, judges almost never sanction anyone this way, as it's usually counter-productive. Contempt orders are only entered as a last resort.

What's far, far more likely is that the judge finds some way of penalizing the offending party without actually making a finding of contempt. This is a discovery dispute. There are a whole ton of remedies for discovery improprieties available that the judge will want to look at before holding her in contempt. A party that does not comply with the discovery process can find that evidence they'd like to submit is excluded, issues related to evidence they've withheld are decided for the other party, fines and attorney fees are imposed (without any finding of contempt!), the whole nine yards.

If you have an attorney, work with your attorney about figuring out what to do about getting your wife to play ball. If you do not have one, get one. She's got one. And her lawyer is almost certainly going to be able to avoid having his client sanctioned at your request.

This answer does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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Your attorney is the best source for information

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My colleagues are giving you good advice. If you don't have an attorney, now's the time to retain one. The attorney will know what sanctions to request and, believe me, some of them can be pretty brutal but you need an experienced practitioner to know what to request when.

Be sure to click Best Answer if you found this helpful. Disclaimer: Please note that this response does not in any way an attorney-client relationship between Kathryn L. Hilbush and the recipient. My responses are general in nature. They do not constitute legal advice. You are advised to consult an attorney regarding this and any other legal matters.

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