CanIi go to jail on a civil matter?

UPDATED: Jul 21, 2010

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CanIi go to jail on a civil matter?

About a year ago a woman sued me for $25,000. I went to court and agreed to pay $50 a month. After court I lost my job and have just now started working again. I just got served papers from her lawyer stating that they are going to try and hold me in contempt. Can I go to jail over all of this?

Asked on July 21, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Maine


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Contempt is a willful disregard or disobedience of a court order.  Yes, you can be thrown in to jail for contempt.  But the attorney for the woman who sued you knows that if he has you thrown in to jail then you have no way to pay the debt back.  Start making payments again right away. Then appear on the date of the motion (try and get an attorney from say legal aid to be with you) and explain to the court what happened.  Explain that you have resumed payments. Explain that you want to pay the debt rather than discharge it in say a bankruptcy but that these are hard times. What you should have done when you lost your job is return to court to ask that the payments be suspended or the order modified until you could get on your feet again. You may want to ask for a reduction now too. Good luck.

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