But You Can’t Appeal a Contempt

In In re C.G., No. 04-13-00749-CV (Tex. App. – San Antonio Aug. 13, 2014), the trial court held a mother in contempt of court. The trial court ordered the mother to pay the father $715.80 in transportation fees for the parties’ children to visit him that the mother had failed to pay. The trial court also assessed $4,575.43 in attorney’s fees and court costs against the mother. The mother appealed the contempt finding.

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Contempt Findings

The trial court found the mother guilty of seven counts of contempt. The seven counts centered on the mother’s move of the children from New York to Philadelphia without first obtaining the father’s consent or a court order; failure to keep the father informed of the children’s activities and school progress and events; failure to pay the children’s travel expenses; failure to allow daily access to the children by telephone or electronic means; and failure to keep the father apprised of the children’s health care appointments.

Contempt Standards

Citing In re Reece, 341 S.W.3d 360 (Tex. 2011, orig. proceeding), the El Paso Court of Appeals observed, “Contempt is a broad and inherent power of a court, but, should be exercised with caution.” The court also specified the standard for review when a trial court holds a party in contempt of court. The standard of review is abuse of discretion.

Lack of Jurisdiction

But the court did not explain how it had jurisdiction to review a finding of contempt by appeal. Texas appellate law is well-settled that contempt of court must be reviewed by a petition for writ of habeas corpus (if the relator is restrained) or by a petition for writ of mandamus (if the relator is not restrained). In fact, the El Paso Court of Appeals discussed this point not long ago, in In re Roberts, No. 04-13-00782-CV (Tex. App. – San Antonio Nov. 27, 2013, orig. proceeding) (mem. op.) (per curiam).

You Can’t Appeal a Contempt

The Roberts court stated:

Contempt orders may be reviewed by an application for writ of habeas corpus, if the contemnor has been confined, or by a petition for writ of mandamus, if the contemnor has not been confined. See Rosser v. Squier, 902 S.W.2d 962, 962 (Tex. 1995, orig. proceeding) (per curiam); Garza, 126 S.W.3d at 270. Thus, mandamus is the appropriate vehicle to review the contempt judgment in this instance.

Nevertheless, the In re C.G. court reviewed the mother’s contempt finding by appeal.

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