Contempt, Writs & Jail

A person who does not follow a court's order and has no valid excuse for not doing so may be found in contempt of court. One of the enforcement tools the Title IV-D Program uses is filing petitions for contempt against non-custodial parents who do not pay child support as ordered.

Notice Citation

Before a person can be found in contempt of court, they must be served with notice that they are being cited for contempt. They must also be notified about the specific order of the court that they allegedly violated. Once a person is served with notice, the court will hold a hearing and advise the person of their rights and the possible consequences of being found in contempt.

Your Rights After Being Cited

If you are cited with contempt for failure to pay child support as ordered, you have the right to hire an attorney to represent you. If there is a possibility that you might be sent to jail as a result of being found in contempt, and you can show evidence to the court that you cannot afford an attorney, you will have an attorney appointed to represent you at little or no charge.

Being Found In Contempt

If, after a hearing, the court finds you in contempt for violating an order without just cause, the court will order you to do certain things to correct the violation, or "purge" yourself of contempt. Courts have wide discretion in what they can order in these situations. Typical contempt sanctions in child support cases include being ordered:
  • To pay an additional sum each week to catch up on past-due child support
  • To apply for employment
  • To pay a lump sum toward past-due child support by a certain date
  • To perform unpaid community service
  • To participate in a community corrections program designed to help you find employment
  • To return to court at periodic intervals to show that you are paying child support as ordered
  • To pay interest on past-due child support
  • To sell or mortgage property and apply the proceeds to past-due child support; etc.
A writ of body attachment is a court order to the Sheriff to arrest a person and hold them in custody. The court will often issue a writ if a party who was ordered to attend a court hearing fails to show up. Usually, when the Court issues a writ, it will set a bond amount that the person can pay in order to be released immediately. If the person is arrested and pays the bond, the money will be applied to past-due child support.

After Being Arrested on a Writ
Once a person is arrested on a writ, they will be given a hearing before the judge who issued the writ. At the hearing, the person will have the chance to explain to the judge why he or she did not show up in court as ordered. The judge then has the discretion to release the person from custody or order them to return to jail.

Title IV-D Program & Writs

The Title IV-D Program has no authority to issue writs or to cancel them. The Title IV-D Program also has no authority to release someone from jail who has been arrested on a writ. If you wish to have a writ cancelled, or to be released from jail after having been arrested on a writ, you must make your request to the court that issued the writ.

After other sanctions have failed to get a person to comply with a court order, the court may order that person to be incarcerated. The person will be handcuffed in the courtroom immediately after the hearing and transported by a Sheriff's deputy to the Tippecanoe County Jail. Typically, a sentence of incarceration will be for a few weeks or months. It will include a recommendation for the person to transfer to Work Release, if eligible. It will also include a bond, or sum of money that the person can pay at any time during the jail sentence in order to be released immediately. If the incarcerated person pays the bond, that money will be applied to past-due child support.

Sometimes, before the court orders a person to be incarcerated, it will issue a sentence of suspended incarceration. This means that the person can avoid going to jail by complying with court orders from that day forward. If the person still doesn't comply after a period of time set by the court, it may execute the suspended sentence and order the person to jail.

As with writs, the Title IV-D Program has no authority to put a person in jail, or to get a person released from jail.