Contempt occurs when a party willfully disobeys the court order. With respect to family court orders, aside from situations where a party is paying child support or spousal support through the court, it is up to the individual to seek the court’s assistance with enforcing the order.

To seek enforcement of a court order, a rule to show cause is issued. Rule to show cause is issued by a Judge and requires the party to appear in court and “show cause” as to why they should not be held in contempt for violating the court order. When served with a rule to show cause, a party can file a return prior to the hearing date, unless the court requires an earlier response. At the contempt hearing, the person who filed the motion seeking the rule to show cause must show there was a valid order in place, and provide evidence and facts as to how the opposing party violated the court order. The person against whom the contempt is sought can present evidence as to any inability to comply with the order and explain the situation. A court can impose sanctions and other appropriate relief requested by the party seeking contempt.

Contempt can be either civil or criminal. While usually family court contempt actions in South Carolina are of the “civil” kind, it is ultimately in the court’s discretion whether civil or criminal contempt is appropriate for enforcing orders. Generally speaking, civil contempt actions are those which seek to compel or force a party to comply with the order; criminal contempt, on the other hand, are those actions which seek to punish someone for failing to comply with the order.

The South Carolina code authorizes sanctions for individuals who violate a court order and are found in contempt of court. Pursuant to the code, the court is authorized to enter any of the following sanctions against someone for a willful violation of an order: 1) punished by a fine; 2) public work sentence; 3) imprisonment in a local correctional facility; or 4) any combination of the sanctions, with some limitation on duration and/or amount.

The attorneys at Conrad Trosch & Kemmy, P.A. are experienced and knowledgeable and able to assist you with contempt actions – whether you are seeking to enforce an order, or you are defending yourself against a contempt.

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