It is well known that there is no right to counsel in civil matters. "Right to counsel" means that if a party to the case cannot afford an attorney must the state provide that person with an attorney. There is right to counsel in criminal cases. The reasoning is that your life and - or liberty might be lost in a criminal case. However, what if you are in a child custody case and your parenting rights might be lost? What if you try to protect your children from an abusive parent and by doing so you keep the children away from the parent. When the abusive parent files a contempt of court case against you do you then have the right to counsel?
As a San Diego Certified Family Law Specialist attorney I have filed contempt citations in family law cases. Here is a brief description as to when a contempt citation may be filed: There must be a valid court order. The citee (person accused of violating the order) knew of the order, and willfully violated the order and he/she had the ability to comply with the order. If all of these items are proved to the court, then the citee may be found to be in contempt and is subject to monetary fines as well as jail time. Caution: you can go to jail if found in contempt by virtue of violating a court order. (In video below an attorney describes contempt under Florida law.)
The ABA Journal reports of the US Supreme Court case of Turner v. Rogers where a father was ordered to pay child support in the amount of $51.73 per week. You can see the article here, and the Supreme Court opinion here. The father reportedly failed to pay as ordered; was found in contempt and he was sentenced to twelve (12) months in jail. The father represented himself. The question to the high court was whether the father had a right to counsel in a contempt case which carried the possibility of a sentence to jail if convicted. In a 5-4 opinion the Supreme Court stated that there is no right to counsel in a civil case (such as this family law case held in family court).