Few non-lawyers realize that divorce proceedings can make the parties involved vulnerable to criminal punishment. Each time that a judge makes an order about child custody, spousal support, child support, or anything else, the parties are required to comply. If a party does not comply with one of the orders, the opposing party can file a motion to bring this to the court’s attention. If it is found that one party disobeyed an order, such as an order to pay child support or provide evidence, that party may receive a citation and be held in contempt of court. This is a quasi-criminal offense that could result in fines or jail time for the offender.
This is where it pays to have a great lawyer. A great lawyer will know how to protect you while your contempt proceeding is underway; he or she will ensure that you are “innocent until proven guilty.” For instance, if you send a document or make a statement that further incriminates yourself, your chance of a fair trial in the future will be jeopardized. Fortunately, if your spouse is requesting you to share information that could harm you in the contempt proceeding, your attorney can invoke your Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination. Essentially, you have an absolute right not to make any statements or testify in a non-criminal matter while the contempt action is ongoing so that you don’t harm your chance of success beyond repair.
Importantly, however, this right is not guaranteed unless you claim the right with the court. Great attorneys will identify this opportunity and will take the necessary steps to protect you. Recently, one of our attorneys at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri filed a motion to invoke our client’s Fifth Amendment rights in a contempt proceeding. If you are involved in a messy divorce or contempt proceeding, having a knowledgeable, experienced divorce attorney by your side can prove to be invaluable. If you have any questions about your divorce or custody issues, please contact our California Certified Family Law Specialists (as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization). Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri’s attorneys have decades of experience handling complex Family Law proceedings and are happy to offer you a free half-hour consultation.
Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.