If there are parts of the court order that the other party is not following, you can ask the judge to hold the other party in contempt. You can also ask the judge to award you any unpaid money, including child support or spousal support. Visit this section to learn how to file for contempt, and to find the forms you will need.
Contempt in General
The judge typically cannot hold someone in contempt unless the person is violating a written order that was signed by the judge, filed with the court, and served on the other party. You cannot allege general bad behavior. The other person's actions must be violating a specific part of a written court order. You will have to prove to the judge that the other party is aware of the order and is disobeying the order.
Contempt is a very serious matter and can result in sanctions, fines, or imprisonment. If the other party is violating the order, the judge may come up with solutions other than contempt to get the person to obey the court order.
If the judge believes that the other party might be in contempt, the judge must set an "Evidentiary Hearing" (which is similar to a trial) where the other person can defend themselves against the contempt charges through a full hearing.
How to File for Contempt
Step 1: Complete the Motion
This form is required. This form tells the judge and the other party how the other person is violating the court order. You will have to explain what the other person has done (or not done) and how you are being harmed because of it. You must be very specific about how the other party is violating the court order.
Step 2: File the Paperwork
After you fill out the papers above, you will need to file them with the same district court where your case was filed. Visit Find My Court if you are not sure where to find the district court.
The court will charge you a filing fee to file your papers. The fee is different in every county. Find out from the court what the filing fee will be.
If you cannot afford the filing fee, please see Filing Fees and Waivers to find out how to ask the court to waive the fee.
Step 3: Serve the Other Party
THIS STEP IS VERY IMPORTANT! If you do not follow this step properly, the judge may deny your motion! Be sure to read and follow the instructions here to make sure the other party is properly served with your papers. It is up to YOU to serve the documents; the court does not serve the documents for you.
All of the documents you filed must be served on the other party, or, if the other party is represented by an attorney, the documents must be served on the attorney. This is to make sure the other party knows about your request and has a chance to respond to your papers.
How to Serve the Papers:
You must send the documents through the U.S. Mail (you can send them by regular mail, there is no need to send them by certified mail).
Once you serve the documents, you must fill out a Certificate of Mailing that states when, where, and how you served the documents. File the Certificate of Mailing with the court.
You can find answers to common questions about service on the Frequently Asked Questions: Service page.
The judge may require your motion to be personally served on the other party. Check with the judge's staff to find out. If so, arrange for a neutral person to hand-deliver the documents to the other person. That person can complete an Affidavit of Service (pdf fillable) to document when, where, and how the motion was served.
Step 4: Wait for a Decision
The judge will give the other party some time to file a response. If you filed the original motion, and the other party filed an opposition that you would like to respond to, you can file a "Reply to Opposition" if there are issues raised that you want to address.
Once your reply is filed (or the time for the other party to file an opposition has passed), you need to let the judge know the case is ready for review. You do this by filling out a "Request for Submission," which lets the judge know it is time to review the papers and make a decision. Fill out the form at file it at the court.
The judge will then read through the paperwork submitted by both parties. The judge may set a hearing if the judge feels it would be helpful to ask the parties some questions in person.
Step 5: Prepare for the Evidentiary Hearing (if the judge sets one)
If the judge believes the other party may be in contempt, the judge must allow the other party a full evidentiary hearing to defend against the charges before making a final ruling. If the judge sets an evidentiary hearing, you can review the basics of how to prepare and what to expect by visiting the Trial page.
It is also a good idea to review some tips on how to Represent Yourself in Court before you go to the hearing.