When you think about what it takes to get thrown in jail, you probably think about being charged and convicted of a criminal offense. In reality, you could be locked up for days, weeks or even months over a divorce, child custody issue or other family law dispute. There is no charge or conviction necessary. All it takes is a command from a judge and you could be behind bars without even having the option to post bail.
Is This A Bad Thing?
An article from FOX31 cites a case involving a man who was jailed for six days over a misunderstanding related to a child custody order. According to the order, the man was allowed to spend the Fourth of July holiday with his children on even years, so in 2016 he took them on a weekend road trip. Unfortunately, the order also states that he only gets the full Fourth of July weekend with the children if the holiday falls on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. In this case, it fell on a Monday, so he was jailed on allegations of indirect punitive contempt. There was even a mugshot.
However, an attorney interviewed for the article points out that there are two sides to every story. In the case above, what about the mother who lost a weekend with her children? The attorney points out that the option of jail is simply a tool to help ensure that people follow family law orders. These can be difficult situations.
Nonetheless, there may be problems. The article draws attention to a lack of consistency in what types of disagreements lead to jail time and the amount of jail time ordered. A former judge and expert on these matters confirms that there are many Court of Appeals rulings that have found problems with these kinds of incarcerations in Colorado.
Ultimately, parties going through a divorce or any other family law case must take care to see that they understand the details of all agreements and orders, and that they follow them or seek modifications through the proper channels. When pursuing or defending against enforcement actions, people must be aware of all options and possible outcomes, including time behind bars.