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Review of how contempt works in Illinois

Parents who live in Rockford, Illinois, and who are working hard to form a relationship with their children, may feel very frustrated when the other parent uses their power to withhold parenting time to which the first parent is legally entitled. They have every right to feel this way, and they should not hesitate to seek justice by going back to court and asking for help.

Although in practice this would be reserved for very serious cases, a judge can even put a parent in jail for withholding parenting time without a good reason. In child custody cases, this is done through the court's power to punish contempt. Unlike other criminal cases, there are very few limits to how severely or lightly a judge can punish this type of contempt, and punishments can include jail, fines or both.

The flip side is that, in many cases, a judge needs to give a person accused of contempt the right to a jury trial and other rights enjoyed by criminal defendants before issuing a punishment. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as when a person, for example, behaves outrageously in the courtroom.

The other common exception is when a judge wishes to use what is called civil contempt. In a civil contempt proceeding, the goal is not to punish someone for violating a court's orders as it is to make sure that person follows those orders in the future. As a result, a person found in civil contempt needs to be given the ability to get out of punishment by following the court's rules. This sort of contempt is more commonly used in child support cases than in cases involving parenting time.

The bottom line is that holding a person in contempt for withholding parenting time, while sadly necessary in many cases, is a complicated legal proceeding.

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