How to File Contempt Charges Without a Lawyer

By Wayne Thomas
Some states offer fill-in-the-blank contempt forms for your convenience.

Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Bickering between spouses does not always end after a divorce is finalized. If custody or support matters are not resolved to the liking of one party, he or she may be resistant to comply. If this occurs, you may file a motion with the court asking that your spouse be held in contempt. Contempt is a determination by a judge that a party has willfully failed to follow a court order, which then allows the court to impose penalties. Although many spouses benefit from the assistance of a legal document provider or attorney throughout the process, some states offer standard forms and instructions to provide you with all of the tools necessary to request that the court find your spouse in contempt.

Obtain the contempt paperwork from the court clerk or type the motion yourself. Some states offer fill-in-the-blank motions that are accompanied by instructions. You will need to include information about your case such as your case number, the name of the court, your name and your spouse’s name.

Briefly explain in the document what the original order requires your spouse to do. Examples would be if your spouse was required to make weekly child support or alimony payments to you, or if you spouse was required to drop off your children every Sunday night at 6 p.m. under a custody arrangement.

Explain in the document how your spouse willfully violated the order. If your spouse failed to make payments, note the date of the last payment and how much he currently owes. If your spouse has been routinely late in dropping off your children, note the dates and times of the violations.

Include the relief you request from the court. Examples would be wage withholding from your spouse's employer, a civil fine or incarceration to pressure your ex to pay support. If your custody time has been reduced due to his noncompliance with the order, in some cases you may request make-up time.

Obtain and complete any accompanying paperwork. Some states require you to fill out a Summary Sheet for the court as well as a Subpoena for Hearing on Motion for Contempt, which simply "commands" your spouse to participate.

File the motion and accompanying documents with the court. After filing, provide a copy of the paperwork to your spouse. Many states require that the motion be hand delivered by a Sheriff or professional process server.

Attend the hearing. The court will schedule a date for you to provide evidence for the claims made in your motion in front of the judge. Your spouse will also have an opportunity to defend his noncompliance. A judge will then enter a finding denying your request or holding your spouse in contempt and granting you the appropriate relief.

About the Author

Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article