Attorney Eric D. Puryear

Rule to Show Cause (Contempt Action) in Iowa

Puryear Law » Legal Blog » Iowa Family Law » Rule to Show Cause (Contempt Action) in Iowa

In Iowa, when a person fails to follow a court order, the matter can be addressed through a Rule to Show Cause (which is sometimes also called a contempt action).  A Rule to Show Cause is most commonly used in family law cases to address violations of court orders involving custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support.


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When an Iowa court issues an order, it is expected by the court that everyone will follow that court order.  A failure to do so can result in the court punishing the person who disobeyed, and making changes to the court order to prevent future problems.  The punishment that the Iowa District Court can impose is broad, and can include jail time, an order to pay attorney fees, etc.  Changes to the court Order that are possible are also broad, ranging from small modifications in visitation terms to a change in child custody.

Common reasons that people seek a Rule to Show Cause in Iowa include the following:

  • A failure to pay child support
  • Interference with visitation or parenting time
  • A violation of the court’s property settlement (e.g. a failure to transfer property as ordered in a divorce case)
  • A failure to provide health insurance for a child

The Rule to Show Cause process involving gathering the evidence necessary to show that a court order has been disobeyed, and then the preparation of a Rule to Show Cause and the documents that accompany it.  Doing this right is key, since technical errors in the Rule to Show Cause process can prevent a person from being able to proceed with their Rule to Show Cause.  Next, the Rule to Show Cause is presented to an Iowa District Judge, who makes a preliminary probable cause finding as to whether the accusation in the Rule to Show Cause, if unexplained, would indeed be contempt of court.  If the judge agrees and signs the Rule to Show Cause, then the case proceeds.  After the Rule to Show Cause is served, there will usually be one or possibly two court dates, including a Trial where the matter is taken to the court if no settlement is reached first.


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Contempt of court is a serious matter in Iowa.  A person who believes that the other party is violating a court Order is wise to consult with an attorney about the matter.  Similarly, a person who is accused of violating an Iowa court order should promptly seek an attorney at once, as handing the matter properly is critical.


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