Civil contempt, which is most generally indirect contempt, is violating a court order for a certain sum of money or a certain act or transfer of property, for instance, that can be solved, that can be enforced. The contemptor can purge their contempt, they hold the key to their own jail cell. A judge may hold them in indirect civil contempt of court until they pay $17,000 in child support arrears, or a judge may hold them in indirect civil contempt of court until they transfer the IRA funds to the other spouse.
The difference in criminal contempt is there’s no purge available. For example, if someone is speaking ill about the other parent in front of the children, there’s no purge available, there’s no dollar amount that you can place on someone to fix their contempt. There’s no dollar figure that you put on a missed parenting time visit or missed holiday. Civil contempt of court has a monetary value, and for criminal contempt there’s no purge available.
Candace Meyers is a family lawyer at Boyle Feinberg Sharma in Illinois.