Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Contempt in Arizona Family Law Cases - Constructive or Punitive in Nature?

Written by Ryan Reppucci
Child Custody Lawyer - Phoenix, AZ

Contributor Level 14

In Arizona family law (i.e. domestic) relations cases, contempt and sanctions are governed by Rule 92 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, ("ARFLP").
The rules caution that contempt sanctions are limited to compelling compliance with a court order or compensating a person for losses sustained as a result of a contemnor's failure to comply with a court order. Other sanctions, specifically intended to punish an offender are criminal by nature and not applicable to domestic matters.
With this said, Rule 94, ARFLP governs Civil and Child Support Arrest Warrants. Under either scenario, the Court maintains power, even in a domestic arena to incarcerate an individual found in civil contempt or who has knowingly failed to maintain a child support obligation. Therefore, this writer suggests that Rule 94 directly contradicts the intended purpose of domestic contempt and sanctions as outlined in Rule 92 as referenced above. It is hard to imagine that the very act of incarcerating an person is not intended to specifically "punish" a person for their conduct and/or inaction.
Nonetheless, if you believe that a person is in violation of a written order from the Court of which you specifically are a party thereto, it is advised that you consult with an experienced Phoenix family law attorney to discuss the merits of your claim.
Rule 92 sets out several specific procedural requirements which must be met in bringing and sustaining any contempt action. To this point, it is strongly suggested that prior to initiating any action for contempt, that you first meet with an attorney well seasoned in the area. The attorneys at Ariano & Reppucci, PLLC have litigated many contempt actions over the years and can provide in depth and personal knowledge and strategy to apply to your unique situation.
Finally, should you hire an attorney and ultimately prevail in your contempt action, Rule 92 permits and it is often that case that as a sanction the person found in contempt will be required to reimburse the petitioning party's attorney fees and reasonable costs.
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