March 2021 | Louisa Treskon and Melanie Skemer

Civil Contempt of Court for Child Support Noncompliance at the PJAC Demonstration Sites

The federal Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt (PJAC) demonstration project was a federally-funded project to study the effectiveness of using procedural justice methods to enforce child support orders. Civil contempt is a possible enforcement tool. This brief considers the application of procedural justice methods to the contempt process. Contempt is an enforcement tools of last resort and is historically adversarial. Several of the PJAC sites worked with the courts to soften the adversarial nature in an attempt to make the process feel fair and to ensure parents had their questions answered. In one area, contempt was filed but the proceeding could be continued without sentencing on the condition the parent seek outside services. Other projects used the principles when providing information and additional resources. The brief found that applying procedural justice principles to contempt may be challenging but is not impossible.

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