A purge amount is an amount of money that must be paid toward child support arrearages in order to avoid going to jail for contempt of a support order. Because punishment is not the purpose of civil contempt proceedings, a court must allow the contemnor (person in arrears of ordered support) an opportunity to “purge” himself or herself of contempt.
The court must decide how much money the contemnor can reasonably pay toward his or her child support arrearage. Frequently, the court will set a purge amount at a sum less than the total amount of the child support arrearage. When the purge amount is less than the total amount of the child support arrearage, the contemnor will be required to first pay the purge amount and then make periodic payments towards the remaining arrearage.