What is are the differences between “technical” contempt and “willful” contempt?

I was recently found guilty of “technical” contempt and ordered to pay legal fees of the opposing party. What is “willful” contempt? Is there a major difference?

Asked on July 2, 2012 under Family Law, Rhode Island


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Willful contempt occurs when it can be properly proven that you knew of a court order and despite the ability to comply with that order chose not to do so or opted to do something that the party felt was in his or her own best interests or the best interests of his or her family despite an order to the contrary.

Technical contempt occurs when it is proven to the judge that you did not comply with that order because you did not have the means or the power to comply with the courts order. 

So the first is deliberate and the second not deliberate so the nature of the non-compliance that designates what type of contempt it is.  Now, it is rare that you would be found guilty of technical contempt and attorney fees awarede.  That is usually in cases of willful contempt.  Please go and speak with a lawyer in your area.  Good luck.

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