Understanding Contempt in Family Law Matters in Connecticut

Family law matters can be emotionally charged and complex, often requiring court intervention to ensure compliance with court orders. In Connecticut, one legal tool used to enforce compliance is the concept of “contempt.” This blog post aims to shed light on what contempt means in the context of family law matters in Connecticut, its implications, and the potential consequences it carries.

What is Contempt?

Contempt, in the context of family law, refers to a willful violation of a court order or a deliberate act of disrespect towards the court’s authority. It is essentially a finding that an individual has acted in defiance or disobedience of a court order, which undermines the integrity of the judicial process.

Types of Contempt:

There are generally two types of contempt: civil contempt and criminal contempt. Understanding the distinction between the two is crucial.

  • Civil Contempt:

Civil contempt is primarily used to ensure compliance with court orders and to encourage parties to fulfill their obligations. When someone fails to adhere to a court order, such as failing to pay child support, denying visitation rights, or refusing to provide financial documents as ordered, they may be held in civil contempt.

In civil contempt cases, the court aims to coerce the individual into complying with the order. The court may issue warnings, impose fines, or order remedial actions, such as requiring the party to fulfill their obligations within a specified timeframe. Once the individual complies with the court order, the contempt finding is typically lifted.

  • Criminal Contempt:

Criminal contempt involves more severe violations that undermine the authority of the court. It encompasses acts of willful defiance, such as disrupting court proceedings, threatening a judge or attorney, or deliberately refusing to follow court orders despite having the ability to do so.

Criminal contempt is punitive in nature and focuses on punishing the individual for their contemptuous behavior. Penalties for criminal contempt may include fines, imprisonment, or a combination of both. It is important to note that criminal contempt is a serious matter, and the accused party is entitled to the protections of due process, including the right to legal representation and a fair hearing.

  • Consequences of Contempt:

When a person is found in contempt, the consequences can be significant and may have long-lasting effects. Some potential consequences include:


The court may impose fines as a means to compel compliance or punish the individual for their contemptuous actions. These fines can accumulate over time until the individual complies or takes the necessary actions.


In cases of serious or repeated violations, the court may order a period of incarceration to convey the seriousness of the offense. The length of imprisonment will depend on the nature and severity of the contemptuous behavior.

Attorney’s Fees:

The court may order the party found in contempt to pay the attorney’s fees of the opposing party, especially if the contemptuous behavior resulted in unnecessary litigation or legal expenses.


Contempt in family law matters serves as a mechanism to ensure compliance with court orders and maintain the integrity of the judicial process. Whether civil or criminal, contempt carries consequences that can range from fines and remedial actions to incarceration. It is important for individuals involved in family law matters in Connecticut to understand their obligations and rights under court orders to avoid the potential repercussions of contempt. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney can provide guidance and help navigate the complexities of the legal process, minimizing the risk of contemptuous behavior.