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Contempt of Court in Colorado

In Colorado, you can be charged with contempt of court if your behavior either willfully obstructs the ability of the court to perform its duties, or if you ignore an order from the court. Contempt charges can even be brought against lawyers who attempt to influence court proceedings unduly.

If you are charged and found guilty of contempt of court in Colorado, it’s possible that you will face jail time, fines, or both. The experienced lawyers at Colorado Legal Group can help you: 

  • Defend yourself against a contempt of court charge to avoid the most serious consequences 
  • File a contempt of court charge against an ex-partner in family court

What Is Contempt of Court?

Contempt of court refers to actions that defy or show disrespect for the authority of a court. These actions can range from disobeying a court order to disrupting proceedings or showing disrespect to the judge or court personnel. Contempt of court is a serious matter as it undermines the integrity of the judicial system and can result in legal consequences for the individual involved.

There are two primary types of contempt of court:

  • Civil Contempt: This occurs when an individual fails to comply with a court order or directive. This type of contempt is often remedial in nature, meaning the individual can purge themselves of contempt by complying with the court’s order. For example, if someone fails to pay child support as ordered by the court, they may be held in civil contempt until they fulfill their financial obligations.
  • Criminal Contempt: This involves behavior that directly disrupts court proceedings or shows blatant disrespect for the authority of the court. Unlike civil contempt, criminal contempt is punitive in nature and may result in fines, imprisonment, or other sanctions. Examples of criminal contempt include refusing to testify when subpoenaed, disrupting a trial by shouting or behaving disruptively, or showing contemptuous behavior towards the judge or court personnel. 

In civil cases, when a judge orders a child custody or spousal support arrangement in a divorce, he or she expects the spouses to follow the provisions of the order. On the other hand, there is no process to enforce the judgment of the civil court, unlike criminal cases where the judge’s sentence will be immediately carried out by the appropriate court officials and law enforcement officers. By filing a contempt of court citation, a complainant can help enforce the ruling of a civil court order. Contempt of court can, however, occur inside or outside of any court by any person connected to a judicial case.

Examples of Contemptuous Behaviors 

Contemptuous behavior can occur in the direct presence of any civil or criminal court or from an indirect action relating to its proceedings. Here are some examples of behaviors in contempt of court in Colorado: 

  • Disobeying a Court Order: Ignoring a court order to produce documents, pay fines, or comply with a custody arrangement can constitute contempt of court.
  • Refusing to Testify: If a witness directly refuses to testify in court after being properly subpoenaed, they may be held in contempt.
  • Disrupting Court Proceedings: Direct behaviors against the court rules such as shouting, interrupting, or creating disturbances during a trial or hearing can lead to contempt charges.
  • Showing Disrespect to the Court: Any action or language that demonstrates disrespect or contempt toward the judge, court personnel, or the judicial process itself may result in contempt charges. This includes indirect behaviors like belittling or mocking court proceedings, interrupting court proceedings, or not filing papers on time. 

What Happens If You Are Charged With Contempt of Court in Colorado?

In family law cases, contempt of court in Colorado can arise when one party fails to comply with court orders related to matters such as child custody, visitation, child support, or spousal support. Understanding the procedures and penalties associated with contempt of court charges in family law cases is crucial for individuals navigating these legal matters.

When contemptuous behavior occurs in family law cases in Colorado, the following procedures are typically followed:

  • Filing a Motion for Contempt: The aggrieved party, often with the assistance of their family law attorney, files a motion with the court alleging that the non-compliant party is in contempt of court.This motion outlines the specific instances of non-compliance with court orders.
  • Scheduling a Contempt Hearing: Upon receiving the motion, the court schedules a contempt hearing where both parties have the opportunity to present evidence and arguments related to the alleged contemptuous behavior.
  • Contempt Hearing: At the contempt hearing, both parties and their attorneys have the chance to present their case before the court. The judge evaluates the evidence presented and determines whether contempt has occurred. At this hearing, one party will need to show why the other party is in contempt of court. For instance, documents may be presented showing that they:
    • Have not paid child support payments
    • Have failed to provide spousal support
    • Have failed to follow child visitation arrangements 

In Colorado, for contempt of court matters concerning nonpayment of support, it is normally proven with one or more of the following:

  • An affidavit signed under penalty of perjury 
  • Records of nonpayment certified by the court clerk, or
  • Records of nonpayment from the Family Support Registry

Contempt of Court matters may require more than one hearing to reach a satisfactory conclusion. The process generally takes between two and four months.

Rights of Individuals Accused of Contempt of Court: 

Individuals accused of contempt of court in family law cases have certain rights, including:

  • Right to Notice: Individuals must be properly served with notice of the contempt motion and hearing.
  • Right to a Hearing: Accused individuals have the right to a fair and impartial hearing where they can present their side of the case and challenge the allegations against them.
  • Right to Legal Representation:  Depending on the type of contempt charged, the person may have the right to legal representation. A family law attorney can advocate on their behalf and ensure their rights are protected throughout the legal process.

Potential Penalties for Contempt of Court in Colorado:

Contempt of court is a serious offense in Colorado and can result in various penalties imposed by the court. These penalties are designed to ensure compliance with court orders, maintain the integrity of the judicial process, and uphold the authority of the court. 


One common penalty for contempt of court in Colorado is the imposition of fines. The court may order the individual found in contempt to pay a monetary penalty as a consequence of their failure to comply with court orders. These fines can vary in amount depending on the severity of the contempt and the discretion of the court.


In more serious cases of contempt, the court may order the individual to serve time in jail. Contemptuous behavior that significantly disrupts court proceedings or demonstrates a willful disregard for the authority of the court may warrant imprisonment as a punitive measure.

Mitigating Factors 

It’s important to note that the court will consider mitigating factors when determining the appropriate penalties for contempt of court. Factors such as the individual’s willingness to remedy the contemptuous behavior, their history of compliance with court orders, and any extenuating circumstances may influence the court’s decision regarding penalties.

Defending Against Contempt of Court Charges in Colorado 

When individuals are accused of contempt of court in Colorado courts, they can work together with a family law attorney to explore defenses available to challenge the allegations against them. Understanding these defenses can be crucial in protecting one’s rights and interests:

Lack of Intent

One common defense against contempt charges is the lack of intent to disobey a court order or disrupt court proceedings. If the individual can demonstrate that their actions were not willful or deliberate, but rather the result of a misunderstanding or inability to comply, it may serve as a defense against contempt.

Justification for Actions

Individuals accused of contempt may also argue that their actions were justified under the circumstances. For example, if compliance with a court order would pose a risk to their safety or well-being, they may have a valid defense for non-compliance. Additionally, if there were extenuating circumstances beyond their control that prevented them from obeying the court order, such as a medical emergency or natural disaster, it may serve as a defense against contempt.

Compliance with Court Orders

If the individual can demonstrate that they have made efforts to comply with the court order or have taken steps to rectify the situation, it may mitigate their contemptuous behavior. Showing a good faith effort to comply with the court’s directives can be a strong defense against contempt of court charges.

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Legal Assistance With Contempt of Court Charges

A contempt of court citation in Colorado is a serious matter that needs to be handled with due legal representation. 

If you are cited, it should not result in a custodial sentence or other serious punishment if you have the assistance of an experienced lawyer to offer reasonable explanations for past behavior and future commitments to follow the provisions of a court order.

The divorce lawyers at Colorado Legal Group can defend you against a citation or help you make a contempt of court citation against an ex-partner who has violated a court order.

Call Colorado Legal Group at 720.594.7360 or get started with a free case evaluation.

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