Mediating Conflict,
Embracing Peace

Contempt of court – jail as a sanction (part 3)

In part two, I discussed that in a contempt of court action imprisonment can be requested as a sanction based upon a party’s failure to follow a court’s order. Jail is one of the harshest sanctions that a court can impose, and a person may be represented by a court-appointed lawyer if jail is requested. Representation by a court-appointed attorney is contingent upon financially qualifying for that assistance.

The conundrum is what happens when trial is less than a month away and the court reserves the contempt jail sanction for trial? Who wants to spend the time, energy and money on preparing trial documents and presenting evidence and testimony at trial when the opposing party has not done anything? A solution is to consider remedies that might resolve the trial expeditiously. For example, a trial would move quickly if a party’s pleadings are stricken or if that person’s testimony and evidence at trial is limited.

If a court strikes a party’s pleadings it is as though that person did not respond, the divorce is uncontested, and the court can finalize the divorce. Another alternative is asking the court to limit the noncompliant party’s evidence and testimony at trial. Perhaps, limiting the person’s testimony and evidence as to whether or not court orders were followed. When issues are narrowed for trial, this makes the trial shorter. Not to mention the attorney’s fees saved if trial issues are limited or if trial is no longer necessary. Although the end result may be that the reserved jail sanction is ultimately abandoned in favor of a “quickie divorce.” For example, if the noncompliant party’s documents are stricken the next step is for the court to enter final orders. Case over.

While one plan of action may not work as originally anticipated, being flexible and remaining focused on a big picture goal allows for viable alternatives.

This concludes the three part series post on contempt of court and possible remedies.