Contempt/liability - what does it take?

Dear ivyalmighty:


  1. If criminal contempt - that means the court can put her in jail, fine her, make her pay attorney fees, etc.

  2. If civil contempt - that means the court can fine her, make her pay attorney fees, etc.

Either way, if she cures the contempt she usually will not have any jail time. I don’t know what the court will do without seeing your court order. Good luck.

Janet L. Fritts
Attorney with Rosen Law Firm

4101 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 500
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607
919.787.6668 main phone
919.256.1665 direct fax

301 McCullough Drive Suite 510
Charlotte, North Carolina 28262
704.644.2831 main voice
704.307.4595 main fax

1829 East Franklin Street, Bldg 600
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
919.321.0780 main phone
919.787.6668 main fax


The response posted above is based upon the limited factual information made available and is not intended as a full and complete response to the question. The only reliable manner to obtain complete and adequate legal advice is to consult with an attorney, fully explain your situation, and allow the attorney sufficient opportunity to research the applicable law and facts required to render an accurate opinion. The basic information provided above is intended as a public service but a full discussion with an attorney should be undertaken before taking any action.

We’re working to find my husband’s ex in contempt for not only continuing to possess his Nissan Altima (which he is still paying on, AND paying the car insurance for…) which in itself is a violation of their divorce decree in NC… but also wanting to hold her liable for the damage caused to it while she had it. It’s a 5 year old car, she had it for just barely two years and managed to get it to the point where it needs an entirely new engine. It’s sitting in a mechanic’s shop where she dumped it two full months ago. So far the mechanic has done $800 worth of work (which she hasn’t paid for) and it needs $3K MORE in parts plus labor costs.
Obviously she’ll be found in contempt for not returning the vehicle…

  1. but what does being found in contempt mean? Is it just a letter? Does it require jail time or anything wacky like that?
  2. Will she automatically be required to recondition the vehicle or do we need to bring that issue up separately from the contempt?

For the general forum members: Has anyone had success suing for property damages caused by the other party?

We just want the Nissan restored to a condition acceptable for a 5-yo car, and for her to pay to have it sent to us here in CA.