On behalf of The Law Offices of Mary Ann Beaty, PC posted in Family Law on Friday, April 24, 2015.

A Texas court has many options and leeway in determining the amount and the duration of spousal support payments. However, once a court order is established, it is the law. Former spouses who fail to meet their obligations related to court-ordered alimony may find themselves in contempt of court.

There are, however, two different types of contempt, and it’s important to understand what type we mean as it pertains to alimony payments. We are talking about civil contempt of court. Let’s take a brief look at this term and the difference between civil and criminal contempt, with the understanding that this information is general in nature only and not intended as specific legal advice.

A parent who does not receive the spousal support ordered by a court can file an action for civil contempt. Unlike criminal contempt, this doesn’t trigger the same types of constitutional rights that a criminal defendant would have, and the standard of proof is much easier to meet. Civil contempt is designed to restore a person’s rights when he or she has been wronged by someone else’s failure to follow a court order — in this case, the order to make alimony payments of a certain amount for a certain duration.

Despite these differences, civil contempt could still lead to jail time. That’s often regarded as a lose-lose scenario — not only does one spouse lose his or her freedom, but the other spouse will likely lose out on payments for a longer time as the person in jail will be unable to earn money to make payments. A Dallas family law professional can advise parties on either side of this dispute as to how to avoid such an outcome.

Source: Findlaw.com, “Civil Contempt of Court,” accessed on April 18, 2015