Contempt is a legal term that refers to a refusal to obey a legal order, mandate or decree that has been entered by a judge. Oftentimes, this may be a refusal to comply with a judge’s ruling at trial, i.e., to not bring up certain irrelevant facts, or refusal to pay child support payments.

There are two different types of contempt: civil and criminal. Civil contempt is generally used to coerce (or convince) a party to comply with a judicial order or decree. For example, suppose a judge orders a party to pay child support but that person—despite their ability to pay—willfully refuses to do so. To ensure that the judge’s order is followed, he may order that person be incarcerated until they decide to pay the ordered child support.

Criminal contempt is slightly different and is used by a judge to punish a party for a failure to comply with a court order. There are two kinds of criminal contempt, direct and indirect. Direct contempt refers to an act of contempt that is committed in the immediate presence of the court. For example, repeatedly referring to embarrassing facts in court that the judge had previously determined are not relevant to could constitute an act of direct contempt. Indirect contempt, on the other hand, is an act committed outside the court’s presence. An example of indirect criminal contempt would be attempting to bribe opposing counsel.

If you have been awarded support payments of any kind, but are not receiving them from the person who was ordered to pay them, the attorneys at Lungarelli Law. can ask the court to find that person in criminal or civil contempt of court.


Once a judge enters a legal ruling, that is not necessarily the end of the story. This is because in some cases, a judge will order one party to pay child support or alimony, but the party will not comply with that order. Or, a party may be ordered to comply with an equitable distribution decree, but refuses to do so.

For this reason exactly, Florida law gives the judge entering an order continued jurisdiction over these cases in order to ensure that the parties comply with all rulings. When required, Florida judges have the ability to enter monetary judgments, garnish wages, place liens on property, and suspend professional and/or driver’s licenses.