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What happens if you disobey the judge's order in a divorce?

Some of the issues involved in a divorce, like visitation, custody, support and asset division, can make people so angry that they're willing to ignore the authority of the court and defy its orders. Unfortunately, that's a short-sighted move that can often do more harm than good to your case--especially if you find yourself charged with contempt of court.

In Michigan, how a contempt charge is treated depends on a couple of important factors: how directly you defy the judge and what the judge ultimately wants to see happen.

A direct challenge to the dignity and authority of the court isn't treated lightly. Direct challenges would include things like refusing to answer the judge's questions about hidden assets or openly stating that you won't turn over your child for visitation. Both types of actions are likely to result in immediate contempt charges.

If the judge wants to coerce you into complying with an order and still thinks that you can be brought to reason, he or she has the option of holding you in jail until you agree to comply. The imprisonment can go on indefinitely and you essentially hold the keys to your own cell--if you agree to do what the judge wants, such as reveal the location of your hidden assets or comply with the visitation schedule as ordered, you can go home.

On the other hand, if the judge simply wants to punish you, with the idea that a severe enough punishment will make you think carefully before you do something like that again, he or she can fine you up to $7,500 or jail you for up to 93 days per act of contempt.

Indirect challenges to the court's authority, by comparison, are done outside of the hearing and sight of the court. Those are usually brought to light when a spouse, angry over your noncompliance, lets the judge know you haven't been following the orders. Since the judge hasn't seen you acting in contempt, you're be given an opportunity to explain the situation and offer a defense. If you have a good reason for not complying, you may be able to escape a contempt charge.

It's wise to remember that complicated family cases are seldom over in a single hearing. Rather than risk a contempt charge (and alienating the judge) talk to your attorney about strategies for future hearings instead.

Source: www.legislature.mi.gove, "Revised Judicature Act of 1961 (Excerpt) Act 236 of 1961," accessed Dec. 02, 2016

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