If it is a civil contempt proceeding then the way it works is that the party seeking the contempt finding has to prove that you failed to comply with the order, i.e. that you failed to make the payments that the court ordered you to pay. Once that has been established, then the burden falls on you to prove inability to pay. As the Tennessee courts explain:
It is well settled that “a failure to comply with such a decree places the defendant prima facie in contempt of court and puts upon him the burden of proving his inability to make the payments as directed.” Chappell, 261 S.W.2d at 831. To avoid being held in contempt, the party claiming an inability to pay alimony must prove that after a good faith effort to pay alimony, he is unable to do so. See Bradshaw, 23 Tenn.App. at 363-64, 133 S.W.2d at 620; Leonard v. Leonard, 207 Tenn. 609, 341 S.W.2d 740, 743 (1960).
Ball v. Ball, No. 02A01-9709-GS-00239, 1999 WL 95977, at *3 (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 25, 1999).
However, if it was a criminal contempt proceeding then the burden is entirely on the state or other party seeking the criminal contempt to prove the contempt beyond a reasonable doubt:
A defendant accused of criminal contempt is presumed to be innocent. Shiflet v. State, 217 Tenn. 690, 400 S.W.2d 542, 544 (Tenn.1966). The party seeking a finding of contempt, therefore, bears the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. Necessarily, the State's burden in the instant case was to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Mr. Creighton willfully disobeyed the court's order on child support.
State, ex rel. Creighton v. Creighton, No. M2010-01171-COA-R3CV, 2011 WL 1344638, at *11 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 7, 2011).