A common problem in family law cases is a litigant's disregard for court orders. For example, one parent may fail to pay child support or maintenance, or a parent will refuse to allow the other parent to visit the child. The Court's orders, such as the orders in the Temporary and Final Orders, should be respected and followed, and one method of enforcing these orders is by holding the guilty party in contempt of court.
Civil contempt actions in Colorado are governed by Rule 107 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. There are two types of contempt actions: direct contempt and indirect contempt. Direct contempt occurs in the court's presence (either the court sees or hears the action), and is so extreme that no warning is necessary or the actions have been repeated despite the court's warning to stop. Indirect contempt, on the other hand, occurs outside the presence of the court.
If the Court finds that the person is guilty of contempt, the court can choose to impose remedial sanctions or punitive sanctions. The purpose of remedial sanctions is to force the litigant to comply with the Court's orders. For example, if a parent is guilty of contempt for failing to abide by the parenting plan, the court can remedy the action by granting the other parent the proper parenting time. The court may also order the guilty parent to pay the attorney's fees of the contempt action.
For punitive sanctions, the Court can impose a sentence similar to a sentence in a criminal case, such as imposing a fine or jail on the guilty party. Imposing punitive sanctions is more serious than imposing remedial sanctions, and the burden of proving the criminal sanctions is more difficult than for remedial sanctions.