Contempt of New York Court Orders

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Contempt refers to actions that or disregard or disobey a court order, misconduct in the presence of a court, or behavior that interferes with a judge’s ability to administer justice. Individuals may be cited for being in contempt of the court if they fail to comply with a request, tamper with documents, withhold evidence, interrupt proceedings, or defy the authority of a judge. Contempt proceedings are generally categorized as civil or criminal, direct or indirect.

Civil contempt occurs when someone willfully disobeys a court order. For example, if a parent fails to pay court-ordered child support, he or she can be held in contempt of court. Civil contempt is generally indirect because it does not occur in front of the judge and there must be evidence to prove contempt.

Criminal contempt involves the obstruction of justice, or behavior that inhibits the court from carrying out its operations. This may include actions such as yelling at or threatening the judge, and is usually direct because it typically happens in front of the judge in court.

It is within a judge’s power to impose sanctions, such as a fine or jail, against people who are held in contempt. Punishment for criminal contempt is punitive, meaning courts use it to punish parties for impairing their ability to function properly. In civil contempt, the goal of punishment is to coerce the contemnor into obeying the court’s order, and he or she will be released from jail as soon as they comply. In family law, for instance, holding someone in civil contempt may be a way of enforcing child support, custody and visitation orders, or alimony.


If you refuse to pay child support in the state of New York, several enforcement actions may be taken against you, including administrative and judicial processes:

Administrative/Automated Enforcement Processes:

Temporary Increase in Support Payment: If child support payments fall behind, the order may be temporarily increased by up to 50% above the court-ordered amount until the arrears are paid off.

Tax Refund Offset: Any federal or state income tax refunds you’re expecting may be redirected to pay off past-due child support.

Lottery Prize Intercept: If you win a lottery prize in New York State and owe past-due support of at least $50 with winnings of at least $600, OCSE can intercept the prize to fulfill the obligation.

Property Execution (PEX): Delinquent parents’ bank accounts and financial assets may be seized to satisfy past-due support obligations if certain criteria are met.

Driver’s License Suspension: If the amount owed in child support equals or exceeds four months of the current obligation amount and you’re not paying by payroll deduction, your driver’s license may be suspended.

Credit Bureau Reporting: Delinquent accounts may be reported to major Consumer Reporting Agencies if you owe at least $1,000 in child support or are two months in arrears.

Referral to Taxation and Finance: Cases may be referred to the NY State Department of Taxation and Finance for asset seizure if the amount owed meets specific criteria.

Passport Denial: If you owe at least $2,500 in child support, your passport application may be denied unless you can prove an emergency circumstance or pay the arrears in full.

NYC Business and Professional Licenses Denial: Restrictions may be placed on issuing or renewing licenses by NYC agencies if you owe back child support equal to or greater than four months of current support.


Judicial Enforcement Processes:


Violation Petition: After administrative enforcement remedies have been exhausted, a violation petition may be filed to enforce the child support order.

Money Judgment: A decision in court that you’re behind in child support payments, with accumulating interest until paid off.

Lien: A lien may be placed on your property, requiring payment of child support debt before the property can be sold or transferred.

Cash Deposit: You may be required to deposit money toward future child support payments.

Referral to STEP: Unemployed or underemployed noncustodial parents may be required to participate in the Support Through Employment Program (STEP) to find employment and make child support payments.

Arrest/Incarceration: An arrest warrant may be issued if you fail to appear in court or seriously fall behind in payments, potentially leading to jail time.

Suspension of State-Issued Licenses: Licenses issued by various state agencies may be suspended if you owe child support arrears equal to or more than four months of current support.

Referral for Criminal Prosecution: Willful nonpayment of past-due child support can be a federal offense, leading to criminal prosecution.

Participation in a Work Program (STEP): If deemed unable to provide financial support due to lack of employment, you may be referred to the Support Through Employment Program for assistance in finding a job and making child support payments.



In a divorce, if either party to a divorce violates the court ordered divorce decree, they can be held in contempt of the court. If your ex-spouse has violated any aspect of your final decree of divorce, you can file a motion for contempt of court. If you need legal help filing this motion, need assistance with a contempt case, or have any questions about contempt, contact an attorney from Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C.

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