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Family Law (Divorce, Family Relations)/Contempt of Court with Inability to Pay


In the state of Florida, can I be put in jail for inability to pay my ex-husband's attorney fees that a judge deemed "fair" after my supplemental petition was dismissed--even though both of us were said to be at fault?  I was originally given 90 days to pay these fees.  However, I am unemployed. I have no savings.  Nothing is in my name. And I don't qualify for any loans--mainly due to inability to repay them and a bankruptcy on my credit.  Can the courts still find me in contempt and throw me in jail?

Hi Lorie, if you are found to be in willful contempt, meaning you have the ability to pay the ordered fees or some portion of them but you refuse to do so, you can be incarcerated.
This can take place in one of two ways

1. The court makes a finding that you are in willful contempt  orders that you be taken into custody by the deputy in the courtroom and requires you to pay some certain amount, based upon your ability to pay, to be released the amount to be paid for release is called a purge amount.

2. The court finds you in willful contempt, orders a purge amount that must be paid by a date certain and further provides that if the purge is not paid as ordered that you be picked up by law enforcement and held in custody until the purge amount is paid together with any other costs administrative required for you to be released.

I hope this information was helpful to you, if it was, please do me the courtesy of rating it. Please be aware and advised that this public forum is designed to provide only general information, to give you a basis of legal knowledge. This public forum does not give you attorney-client privilege. You and I have not entered into an attorney-client relationship. I am not responsible for your legal rights and this answer is based solely on the information you have provided in your question and as always, I would advise that you arrange for an in person consultation with an attorney from my firm or another Family Law attorney familiar with Florida Family Law who can analyze the specific facts and circumstances of your case more closely to better advise you. Additional information may be obtained on our web site listed below.


Daniel Bachert, Esq.
The Bachert Law Firm, P.A.
330 Clematis Street, Suite 222
West Palm Beach, Florida 33401
(561) 653-3951  

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Dan Bachert


I can respond to questions pertaining to Florida Family Law within the specific areas of Divorce, Child Custody, Child Timesharing, Alimony and Child Support Enforcement/Modification, Equitable distribution, and Inter Family Adoptions.


Actively practicing Family law in the Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie Counties for the past eleven years.

Florida Bar, Family Law Section of Florida Bar, Palm Beach County Bar Association, BNI

Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Florida Atlantic University; Juris Doctorate from St. Thomas School of Law

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