An order to show cause in Utah is a way that your ex-spouse can force you to comply with a court order.
Perhaps it best to use an example.
Let’s say there is a temporary order in place in your divorce case that requires you to pay temporary alimony to your spouse during the divorce case. Let’s say it is for $500 per month. So, for whatever reason, let’s say that you don’t pay your spouse the $500 per month. Your spouse can bring an order to show cause before the court, asking you to be held in contempt of court for your failure to obey the lawful court order. (i.e. – not paying the $500 per month).
So, contempt of court can be a monetary sanction – meaning you pay your spouse’s attorney’s fees, costs, and a punitive dollar amount. Contempt can also be by putting you in jail for a weekend or, until you are current on your payments. This is drastic, but I’ve seen it happen. You really don’t want to get thrown into jail.
Contempt can play a big role after a court has actually issued a judgment, order, temporary order, or decree to control the actions of the parents, which it can do at any type of point throughout the separation or divorce, or custody proceedings. As soon as the court has provided such ruling, it is extremely important for you to obey them and for your ex to obey them as well. Courts hate it when a parent neglects their orders.
If an attorney and his client can create evidence that you have willfully violated the provisions of a court order; then, they can “make a motion” or file an “order to show cause” for a contempt ruling.
In Utah, it goes to 2 hearings:
First, there is a hearing before the court commissioner. This is just where attorney’s make argument. The court commissioner will certify the issue for contempt. If certified for contempt, then the court will allow an evidentiary hearing to take place on the order to show cause.
Second, there is an evidentiary hearing. This is set before the district court judge in your case. This is like a mini-trial because you will have to take the witness stand and testify and your ex will take the stand and testify and any other witnesses will also need to be there.
Technically, a contempt action is appropriate anytime you or your ex goes against any kind of provision of the court order or decree. Most of the time, however, the violation or infraction needs to be considerable.
To find a party in contempt of court requires there to be a “willful intent” to violate the order. The court can not just conclude that the party did not act based on the decree. The court has to rule on the evidence that the accused purposely did so and did so without a good reason.
Remember that a contempt charge is civil in nature and not a crime. This means that usually you’re not looking at jail time.
Still, I have seen courts put a non-compliant person behind bars for failing to pay child support of alimony on purpose.
I hope this has been helpful.
Let me know your thoughts.
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