What Is Contempt of Court in Oklahoma And How Do I Defend Against It?

Burden of Proof

Oklahoma law recognizes two types of contempt, called direct and indirect contempt. Direct contempt happens in the presence of the judge when someone purposefully interferes with the judge’s job and willfully fails to follow the judge’s orders in court. Indirect contempt happens when the person fails to follow the court’s orders outside of court. In domestic and family law, indirect contempt happens when one party willfully and directly fails to follow the court’s instructions. When a court finds a party in contempt for failing to follow orders, punishments can follow unless the person can successfully defend against the contempt order.

Contempt of Court Laws in Oklahoma

The family law courts in Oklahoma says that any court in the state has the power to enforce an order for any of the following:

  • Current child support
  • Past due child support
  • Visitation orders
  • Property division
  • Divorce
  • Paternity
  • Child Custody

A person who is concerned that an order of the court is not being followed has the right under Oklahoma law to file a contempt action at any time to see that the order will be enforced. One common reason for a contempt is regarding failing to follow custody and visitation. When the person files an Application for Contempt, the court will set an arraignment date.

At the hearing, the person charged with contempt must plead guilty or not guilty. If the plea is not guilty, the court sets a date for a trial and typically allows the party alleged to be in contempt to remain free on an Own Recognizance Bond, meaning they agree to appear at trial without having to pay bail to stay out of jail until the time of the trial. At the trial on the Application, both parties put on evidence of the facts, and the court will determine whether the person is guilty of contempt or not.

Family Law Actions Leading to Contempt Include:

  • Failing to follow through on the terms of a visitation order or agreement
  • Disparaging (talking negatively) about the children’s other parent to the kids
  • Withholding property that the court ordered to be delivered to the other person
  • Failing to pay bills that the court ordered to be paid, like utility bills or car payments that one party to a divorce is responsible for
  • Failing to complete court-ordered testing, whether for drugs, paternity, or any other matter
  • Failing to attend court-ordered classes on parenting or divorce
  • Failing to appear for hearings or other court-ordered appointments

Punishment For Contempt

Oklahoma law says that contempt can be punished by a fine not exceeding $500 or a jail sentence of up to six months, or both, at the court’s discretion. If the order that hasn’t been followed involves payment of money to the other person, the court can order a garnishment of the income or seizure of bank accounts or other assets owned by the person who hasn’t paid the amounts due. Its also common for the violating party to be forced to pay attorney fees.

Contempt of Court Defense

The person who is alleged to be in contempt can show that the claims of contempt are untrue. They can also show that the alleged violation was not a “willful disobedience” of the court’s orders. The term “willful disobedience” has a specific legal meaning. This must be shown before the court can find the person guilty of contempt.

Proof that the claims of contempt are untrue can be in the form of financial records showing payments were made as required. They can also call witnesses that prove that the person did the things the court ordered. Testimony can also be used to show they didn’t do the things that the court ordered them not to do.

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Oklahoma Contempt Attorneys in Your Corner

A charge of contempt is a serious legal concern. You can face the possibility of fines and even jail time if you don’t defend against the contempt claims. The Tulsa contempt attorneys at Kania Law Office understand what is required to get the best result in your legal matter. Call or contact us online for more information and to schedule a consultation.

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