A motion to show cause (why you should not be held in contempt) is simply a claim by one party that the other party has violated the court’s orders and should be required to a give a reason why they shouldn’t be held in contempt (and penalized) by the court. Examples could include hiding assets, failing to provide documents, denying visitation, not paying child support or alimony, or violating a restraining order.
The court has wide powers to punish someone who disobeys its order, including financial penalties and jail time. The court usually gives someone a chance to remedy the behavior (such as paying child support arrears and attorney fees) before ordering jail time. Judge Pomrenze of the Clark County Family Court in Las Vegas Nevada is infamous for jailing a lawyer who argued with her (she refused to hear his motion without an affidavit of financial condition). Contempt extends to violating a judge’s orders both directly (i.e. inside) and indirectly (i.e. outside) the court.
The Nevada Revised Statues (NRS 22.100) indicate the maximum penalty for a contempt is $500 or 25 days in jail. However, NRS 22.110 goes on to say “when the contempt consists in the omission to perform an act which is yet in the power of the person to perform, he may be imprisoned until he performs it”. Ouch!
Motions for contempt in divorce cases are often brought against fathers for failing to pay child support or violating protection orders. In my experience, the court is very reluctant to find a mother in contempt for violating a visitation order (the most common complaint of fathers).