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What is Contempt of Court?

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Mark Cappel
UpdatedAug 6, 2009

What if someone refuses to comply with a court order by not disclosing private information to a creditor?

Couple questions (Florida): (1) If a Court enters a judgment against a credit card holder (Holder) on behalf of the credit card company (Company) for an outstanding debt can the Company force the Holder to provide personal information (e.g. bank account, car, etc.) (Information) to the Company? (2) If the Holder does not provide the Information to the Company and the Company gets a Court Order that orders the Holder to provide the Information by completing a personal information form (Information Form), does the Holder have to complete the entire Information Form? (3) Meaning, since it is a Court Order, may the Holder complete as much of the Information Form as possible and leave the remainder blank and not have the blanks be seen as an incomplete Information Form and violation of the Court Order? (4) If the Holder submits an Information Form with blanks, is there any default interpretation of the blank information?

First, let me disclose that I am not an attorney in Florida, and the following observations are not advice. Because your questions are hypothetical, I'll answer them based on my understanding of the common law. Consult with a Florida attorney before refusing to comply with a court order.

1) Divulging private information

In general, a party is not required to divulge private or personal information to another just because they are asked. However, if two parties are contracting with each other, one may require the other to divulge private information. The asked party can make a choice -- divulge the information and complete the contract or walk away from the deal.

In the scenario you described, Company and Holder had a contract before commencement of litigation. It is possible that Company and Holder agreed to make certain disclosures in the event of litigation. Regardless of what the court ordered, it is possible Holder is already obligated to disclose private information to Company.

If there is no such language in the contract, then Holder is obligated to disclose only what is required to execute the contract.

2 - 3) Court orders & contempt of court

In general, there are two forms of contempt: direct and indirect. Direct contempt occurs in the presence of the judge or magistrate. If a party commits contempt of court in the judge's presence, the judge will inform the offending party of the contempt and will usually inform them of the penalty.

Indirect contempt occurs outside of the court's presence, and the party benefited by the order must file a complaint with the court and ask for relief. The court will hold a hearing attended by both parties where the benefited party will present evidence of the contempt.

Here, if the court orders Holder to complete various disclosures, and Holder fails to comply, the Company can file a motion with the court informing the court of the incomplete disclosure. You didn't ask, but if the court finds the defendant in contempt the punishment can be fines or imprisonment. Once the disobedience ends, the sanction or imprisonment ends.

If the court requires Holder to disclose information that Holder does not have and would not be expected to have (such as George Washington's blood type), then Holder should note that in the documentation. Similarly, if the court is asking Holder to disclose financial information that does not apply to the Holder (such as account numbers for CDs, and Holder never opened a CD account), then Holder should state that and not leave that portion of the form blank.

4) Default answers

As far as I know, there are few instances in the law where a null answer defaults to a certain value.

Here, a null answer would be considered a null answer -- in other words, a refusal to comply with the court's order.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.




zzenny, Jun, 2012
In a ridiculous divorce/custody case, a dishonest and vindictive attorney persuaded a judge for husband to pay $25k in atty fees. He was destitute. His English difficult , to understand.... he'd had 4 near fatal heart attacks, ill health all used against him. He didn't have $, she filed for contempt. Judge didn't allow husbands witnesses with his financial documentation to be heard, just sent him to jail for 90 Days. He had no $ so spent 90 in jail. 9 months later atty got a 2nd contempt hearing. At this one, judge told her he had no contempt but she could file for a judgement. She did. Now almost 2 years later ,after he was hit by car, had 5th heart attack during foot & arm surgery and trying to get compensation from accident, she filed another contempt hearing that the settlement offered is reasonable and because he is refusing to accept and sign settlement because he still is disabled, needs more surgeries etc, he is in contempt and she should get her money. Does Florida law allow someone with a judgement to force an accident victim accept an insurance settlement, or go to jail for contempt? This case just keeps getting crazier. The lawyer just wants him dead.
BBill, Jun, 2012
It would be imprudent to comment without knowing all of the case's facts. The person here should discuss his case with a lawyer to get a legal opinion about his rights and liabilities.