New York Court Explains the Proof Necessary to Hold a Party in Contempt in a Family Law Action

It is common for courts to issue orders that impose financial obligations on parties in New York family law cases. Such orders are legally binding and enforceable by the courts. For example, if a party fails to comply with the terms of an order, they may be held in contempt. Recently, a New York court discussed what a party seeking to hold someone in contempt for failing to comply with a family court order must prove in a case in which a former wife moved to hold her former husband in contempt for failing to pay counsel fees and arrears. If you have questions regarding the enforcement of orders in New York family law actions, it is in your best interest to consult a New York family law attorney as soon as possible.

The Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the former husband and former wife were divorced by judgment in September 2013. Among other things, the judgment directed the former husband to pay the former wife over $420,000 in arrears for carrying on the marital home and counsel fees in the amount of $30,000. The judgment was later modified to reduce the arrears owed by the former husband to slightly over $200,000; the award of counsel fees in the amount of $30,000 was affirmed. A second judgment for additional counsel fees was entered against the husband in April 2017.

Allegedly, in May 2018, the former wife moved to hold the former husband in civil contempt for failing to pay the arrears or counsel fees. The court granted the motion. The former husband then moved to vacate and set aside the contempt order. The court denied his motion, and he appealed.

Establishing a Party Should be Held in Contempt

On appeal, the court upheld the trial court ruling. In New York, whether to punish a party for civil contempt is within the discretion of the court. In order for a party to prevail on a motion for civil contempt, however, they must offer clear and convincing evidence that: a lawful court order that clearly set forth an unequivocal mandate was in effect, an appearance that the order was disobeyed, the disobeying party had knowledge of the order, and that they suffered prejudice as a result of the failure to comply with the order. In the subject case, the court found that the former wife met her burden of proof with clear and convincing evidence. As such, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Trusted New York Divorce Attorney

The New York courts do not take parties’ failure to comply with court orders lightly and may hold a party in contempt for neglecting to uphold obligations imposed by such orders. If you have questions about your rights and obligations with regard to the enforcement of a family law order, it is a to meet with an attorney. Ksenia Rudyuk is a trusted New York family law attorney who can inform you of your options and help you seek the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can reach Ms. Rudyuk through the form online or at 212-706-2001 to set up a conference.

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