How to File a Petition for Contempt in Tennessee

The Tennessee Supreme Court Building in Nashville, Tennessee
••• Dan Reynolds Photography/Moment/GettyImages

A petition for contempt is a request by a party in a court case to punish another party for violating an order of the court. A petition is a motion that must be formatted as any other motion – there is no standard court form for a petition for contempt.

In the state of Tennessee, a party can file a petition for contempt with a circuit court, chancery court, criminal court or probate court. The request must be formatted in the style particular to the local rules for the particular court. There is a fee for filing a petition for contempt, which varies by court.

Documents to Submit

A party should file a petition for contempt with the court clerk. The petition should contain an affidavit, a written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, which explains how another party to the case has failed to comply with an order of the court.

A party that is owed money may start a garnishment action or begin the process to seize the property of the party that owes them money. There is a separate fee to begin a garnishment action or seizure process. This fee varies by county.

Civil and Criminal Contempt

Civil contempt of court is a failure to obey an order of the court, such as an order to transfer property or to pay child support. A sanction, or penalty, for civil contempt ends when the party complies with the order or when the case is closed.

Criminal contempt of court is a rebuke of the court’s authority, such as failing to appear in court to testify after the court has issued a subpoena. A sanction for criminal contempt typically involves incarceration and a fine.

In juvenile court, contempt can involve willful behavior that interrupts court proceedings. The penalty may involve detention and placement of the minor child on juvenile probation.

Noncompliance With Order of Protection

An individual who has obtained an order of protection against another person should show the court that the other person has violated the order. The court will then find the offender in contempt of court for violating the order.

Violating an order of protection is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days' incarceration and a fine between $100 and $2,500.

Typically, an order of protection lasts for one year. If an offender violates an order of protection, the court can extend the order for up to five years. If the offender violates the order a second time, the court can extend the order for up to 10 years.

Petition for Custody

A petition for custody is usually a petition by a party in a domestic relations case involving children to request that child custody be modified to allow one parent or guardian broader or limited access to the children.

The petition for custody may result in a change in the parenting plan between the parents or guardians of the child. The cost of a petition to modify custody varies by county.

In Nashville, the fee is $77 without a service of process fee and $119 with a service of process fee.

A person can request a termination of payment of child support by submitting a petition to the court that oversees their child support case. Typically, a parent is required to pay child support if they remain the legal parent, the child is not emancipated (made independent of their parents or guardians for legal purposes), or the child is under 18.

Seeking Assistance with Child Support Enforcement

A parent who needs assistance for enforcement to receive payments of child support should apply at their local child support office. The information they should provide to the staff should include:

  • Employment.‌ Name and address of the current or most recent employer of noncustodial parent and their gross/net income.
  • Friends & Relatives.‌ Names of friends and relatives of noncustodial parent and organizations to which the noncustodial parent belongs.
  • Property.‌ Information pertaining to income or property of the noncustodial parent, like cars, boats or homes.
  • Medical.‌ Type of medical plan of the noncustodial parent and the policy number.

Related Articles