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What can cause a divorce judge to cite you for contempt?

One thing that you don't want to do during a divorce is end up in contempt of court—but that's exactly what can happen if you let your emotions get the better of you and react without thinking about the long-term consequences.

Usually, contempt of court charges in a divorce hearing happen in one of two ways.

-- You decide to express your displeasure with the judge, your spouse's attorney or the whole general process in a way that offends the dignity of the court. That could include any verbal or visual indicator of disrespect that the judge finds offensive.

Family court judges may be fairly lenient about some mild expressions of your displeasure, because they realize the emotional nature of what is going on, but you do not want to push your luck if a judge has already warned you once about your behavior or language.

Family courts are considered trial courts in Texas, which means that you can be sentenced up to a $500 fine or six months in jail (or both) for an outburst that crosses the line with the judge.

More significantly for many, pushing a judge to that point doesn't do you any favors in the future—judges are human, and their perceptions about your ability to conform to the court's orders and work toward the best interests of your children with your ex-spouse could be negatively affected from that point forward.

-- You refuse to do something that the court has ordered you to do.

This usually happens when the court suspects that you are withholding information about marital assets, or you aren't complying with a visitation schedule or support order.

In those situations, the judge has the power to put you in jail as a coercive measure, for up to 18 months or until you either agree to turn over the information the court wants or conform to the court's orders about visitation or support.

In the long-term, refusing to comply with the court's orders now could also cost you later. If you're hiding assets, the court may punish you by awarding the majority of those assets to your ex-spouse. If you are withholding visitation rights with the children, you could lose physical custody to your ex-spouse.

Don't risk a contempt citation by losing your cool in divorce court. Talk any situation you see as unfair over with your attorney and work on strategy instead.

Source:, "Government Code Title 2. Judicial Branch Subtitle A. Courts Chapter 21. General Provisions," accessed Jan. 12, 2017

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