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Understanding A Contempt Of Court Application in Family Court

contempt of court | Justice Family Lawyers

If you’re in the process of a separation or divorce, chances are you’ve heard of a contempt application in the Family Court of Australia.

But what is a contempt application?

How do you go through the process and what should you be mindful of if you’re considering one?

Justice Family Lawyers are here to help break down this process and help you understand what contempt of court is.

Key Points:

  • There needs to be a blatant disregard of the court orders.
  • Contempt proceedings should not be used as a means to get your own way, but rather as a last resort after all other attempts have failed.
  • It is important to obtain legal advice regarding a contempt application and to present evidence in court in order for the court to make its decision.

Contempt Of Court

In the face of the court, contempt is an act that is considered to interfere with or undermine the authority or dignity and performance of the courts.

Examples of contempt include:

  • Abusing and swearing at a judge or magistrate
  • Filming witnesses with a view to intimidation
  • Prevaricating or refusing to answer questions
  • Refusing to take the oath or give evidence
  • Refusing to leave the court when directed
  • Disobeying court orders including subpoena

Also read: How To Report A Breach Of Family Court Order in Australia

What is a Contempt Application?

Contempt proceedings are civil judgments that take place in the Family Court, allowing a spouse to seek a remedy against the other when they have failed to adhere to court orders.

A contempt application is essentially a document that allows the opposing spouse to take civil legal action against another if they are found to be in contempt of an order made by a court. In this context, if someone is in contempt of a court order it means that a spouse has acted against the orders of a court, to which a contempt application will be then put in place to punish the offending spouse for their breach.

More often than not, contempt applications arise due to non-compliance with orders regarding parenting arrangements, or the transfer of property.

When Should You Make a Contempt Application?

The most basic rule when it comes to commencing contempt proceedings is that they are reserved for those extreme circumstances where a spouse has willfully and continually failed to comply with court orders.

Contempt proceedings should never be used selfishly or for attention.

Instead, contempt proceedings should be used as a last resort when all other attempts have failed to get the other side to comply with orders.

Before you commence contempt proceedings, other avenues should be explored first.

Steps in the Contempt Process

The first step in the contempt proceeding process is to obtain legal advice.

A contempt application can be complicated and requires knowledge of the applicable state or federal family law and court procedures.

So, it’s always important to seek legal advice from a qualified court lawyer to obtain the best outcome.

Once you have consulted a lawyer, documents will be drafted in preparation for the contempt application. These documents list various facts that must be proven for a court to find the other spouse to be in contempt.

The next step will be to make the application to the Family Court. After the application is made, a court hearing will occur at a later date. At this hearing, both parties will present evidence for the court to make its decision.

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