Articles Posted in Contempt

A Michigan judge has reduced the child custody rights of a woman who was jailed for five days for not following through on an agreement to vaccinate her 9-year-old son. The family law issues are  twofold here.  violation of a court order and whether vaccination of the children is lawful and a parental decision without the  court involvement. Often the right to vaccinate your child can be a decision left to the parents individually.  However, if the court deems the safety of the children are at risk the Judge can step in  and order a vaccination.  The Family court judges top priority is the health safety and welfare of the children. Ultimately, the determination is the best interest standard of review for the family law court judge. So when the Michigan court judge ordered vaccination to be given the child against the mother’s wishes the Judge must have considered the pros and cons about the vaccination and determined that the health of the child outweighed any religious views the mother might have held
Oakland County Judge Karen McDonald ruled Wednesday that Rebecca Bredow will no longer have primary custody of the boy, but will have joint custody with her ex-husband, James Horne. Since the mother violated the Judges court order the judge probably held her in contempt of Court.  As a result the judge can penalize the mother in many different ways.  One of the ways is by taking her custodial  time away.  In this case the famiy law court judge decided  that  it was in the best interest to limit the amount of custodial time the mother  would recieve.
Horne wanted the boy vaccinated and Bredow agreed to do so last November but didn’t. She says vaccinations go against her religious beliefs. Religious beliefs cannot overtake the health safety and welfare of the child’s interest.  The best interest are always at the top of the Judges agenda when making any ruling regarding custody. When determining the best interest of the child the court must assess the health safety and welfare of the child first before looking at other issues that might lead to where the child should reside primarily.

In Gutierrez v Gutierrez a Mississippi Supreme Court Case the supreme Court of Mississippi evaluated and ruled upon a very complicated spousal support and property debt and asset division family law case. The first major issue the trial court had to undertake was 2nd mortgage that was taken out soley during the marriage under Clayton Frank Gutierrez’s name.  The trial court laid out three questions it determined. Clay was the sole person who signed for the 2nd mortgage.  Trisha Guterriez did not sign for the 2nd mortgage.  In addtion the trial court ruled that the creditor did not make a claim for the enforcement of the 2nd mortgage.  The chancellor in Mississippi which would be the trial Court in California made each party responsible for the equal payment of the debt thus each spouse would assume joint responsibility for the 2nd mortgage.

Each party on appeal to the Mississippi Supreme court made a different argument based on the 2nd mortgage.  Mr. Gutierrez claimed that since he was soley liable for the note and signed for the 2nd mortgage he should be soley paying for the mortgage and not Mrs. Gutierrez. Mrs. Gutierrez appealed claiming she wanted a lump sum spousal support payment rather than monthly payments.  Each of their argument strongly relied on the outcome of how the debt and payments on the 2nd mortgage would be handled by the Mississippi Supreme court.

Mrs Gutierrez wanted that the 2nd mortgage remained community debt and jointly responsible to the both parties. If so she would gain much more ability to claim more spousal support.  Mr. Gutierrez wanted to claim it as his sole responsibility because then he would have more community debt to claim and thus less income to provide more spousal support to Mrs. Gutierrez.

Wynn v Craven is a Georgia Supreme Court case involving the collection of Child Support arrearages.  The mother Helen Wynn sought $72,000 in unpaid child support against Robert Craven, the father.  The father Mr. Craven was ordered to pay 20% of his income or a minimum of $100 per week.  By 2014 the mother was owed $72,000 in arrears after a total of 15 years of unpaid child support.  She had had on several occasssions written Mr. Craven the father and demanded payment of unpaid child support.  He often did make payments throughout the years however, he never paid enough to forgive his total amount of arrearages owed.  Mother filed a contempt lawsuit in 2014 claiming there was past due arrearages for child support.  The Father Mr. Craven in turn responded with the affirmative defense of laches.  The trial court held that because mother accepted an amount of $100 per month for a period of years she therefore acquiesced her chances to file a contempt action against the father giving up her right to the full amount of child support arrearages owed.

She then filed an appeal claiming that the trial Court erred in deciding the way they did. She argued that to allow the defense of laches basically lets the father get away without paying child support.  The appellate Court agreed.  The father alleges that there was a base of $100 of that needed to be paid and he did pay it.  However, the appellate Court ruled that the child support order also stated he was to pay 20% percent of his income which he did not pay.  Father also argued that there was a delay of 15 years before she filed her claim for arrearages.

Laches can be asserted only when it would be inequitable for a party to enforce their legal rights.  The appellate Court ruled that child support cannot be waived by inaction.  That Mom was asserted the rights of her child not her legal rights.

It is a common question that occurs in Family Courts all across the county.  When does the obligation to pay child support end.  In the new Georgia Supreme Court Family Law case the court reviewed that issue.  The parties entered into a divorce settlement agreement determining the terms of the child support obligation of the Father.  It stated that he would continue to pay the child support of the minor child while she was in high school.  This type of language agreeming to terms of Child support is an acceptable form of settlement for Divorce proceedings.  It is not void unless it violates public policy such as terminating someones obligation to pay child support.

In this Georgia case there would be certain conditions to be met in order that father continue to pay child support for his child. Normally child support ends upon the child either graduating high school and if they continue to be in high school upon turning 19.  If they graduated high school and have not turned 18 then the child support obligation will terminate when child turns 18.  However, in this Georgia case the wife argued that the husband was in contempt because the adult daughter was still in high school

The duty of support imposed by Section 3901 explains the law in California which the Courts use to determine the termination of the obligation to pay child support. The law states it will terminate to an unmarried child who has attained the age of 18 years, is a full-time high school student, and who is not self-supporting, until the time the child completes the 12th grade or attains the age of 19 years, whichever occurs first.

I often end up in Court representing someone who either is filing for contempt or is on the receiving end on a contempt.  Most of the times the process is being misused by the other party who ignorantly filed a contempt action thinking the other party doing what they are obligated to do under the law. In my 18 years of practice rarely do contempt actions succeed unless child support is involved.  Most people however, pull the trigger and file a contempt on the other party when the child arrives late for a visitation or violates some custody order.

The elements of a contempt action are 1) a valid prior order 2) knowledge of that prior order 3)ability to comply with the order and 4) lastly willful failure to comply with the order.

Often the first element of contempt is easy to demonstrate to the Court that there is a valid prior order.  All you need to do is provide a copy of the prior Court to your affidavit for Contempt when you file the action.  There might be difficulty in the order if it is not clear, specific and “unequivocal.” This actually is a big problem in contempt actions.  The vagueness of an order can be a big sticking point with the Judge in finding any violation of a prior order if it is vague on its face.

Here is a basic blog post about what is child support and the consequences for one’s failure to pay.

What is child support?

An order for child support comes from state courts. The oversight and enforcement of payments to the parents is usually delegated to a state agency. Individuals who wish to apply for child support payments can do so either through these agencies or through the courts. Using the state agencies is a wise decision for single parents, as they perform a wide variety of services, including collections.

Randy reportedly owes around $500,000 to Alejandra Genevieve Oaziaza, the mother of his two children. The two started dating when Randy was 25 and Oaziaza gave birth to the couple’s first child, Genevieve Katherine Jackson, who is now 22.

Randy Jackson later married Eliza Shaffe without Oaziaza’s knowledge, according to The Daily Mail. Shaffe gave birth to Jackson’s second child, Stevanna, although the couple divorced in 1991. After the split, Randy got back together with Oaziaza and at that point fathered his third child (and second with Oaziaza, if you’re following) Steven Randall Jackson Jr.

Randy and Oaziaza then broke up again, and she married Randy’s older brother Jermaine. Jermaine then fathered two children with Oaziaza. The Daily Mail reports that Jermaine has also fallen behind on child support payments with Oaziaza and although the brothers have requested some help from Michael’s estate, an insider said they were “shot down immediately.”

According to TMZ.com, Levi Johnston owes Bristol Palin $38,000 in child support payments. Pursuant to court order, he owes $1750 per month in child support. Further, according to Palin’s lawyer, Johnston has not made a child support payment to Palin since June 2010.

What is interesting to note is that Palin has not tried to enforce the order through a Wage Assignment nor has she tried to file a Contempt action against Johnston. Palin’s refusal to involve court intervention is reportedly because they are “hoping” Johnston will “man-up” and voluntarily pay his child support payments. Additionally, Palin’s people report that they do not want to exacerbate an already strained situation.

From an Orange County divorce lawyer’s perspective, if you have not received your child support payment, it is probably a good idea to take measures to enforce, especially if you are strapped for cash. If you want to wait and see and hope that the obligor voluntarily makes his or her payments, you could be waiting till eternity and by that time, your child has already reached the age of majority. Bottom line is that if you have not received a court ordered child support payment, take measures to enforce that payment either through a wage assignment or levy on a bank account. You could also file a Contempt action.

We previously blogged about the consequences of one’s failure to pay child support in our Orange County Contempt section. Now, the mother of his children claim that Blount missed one child support payment and is requesting he be held in Contempt of court. The mother, Sifika Mayfield, claims that Mark is supposed to pay $5,119 a month — but in January, he only paid $2,500. Now, Mayfield wants a judge to put Blount in jail and revoke his driver’s license.

However, Blount filed his own legal documents, claiming the reason he paid less child support is because one of his sons now lives with him … and Blount personally pays for his schooling. Blount is requesting that the child support payments be modified given the new living arrangements.

From an Orange County divorce lawyer’s perspective, if there is a change in child custody (i.e. one of the children who formerly lived with one parent moves in with the other parent) there will be a change in child support. Blount has every reason to request a modification in his child support payments because one of his kids now lives with him.

Football star,Terrell Owens, is currently $20,000 behind on child support payments for one of his children. The mother of the child filed a petition in Atlanta court requesting that Owens be fined or jailed for his failure to pay child support.

This is the latest in money troubles for Owens. Two of his homes in Dallas are in foreclosure. He tried to get his child support obligations lowered by a court last summer, blaming the NFL lockout on his inability to pay. The court refused his request. According to a January GQ article, Owens owes nearly $45K in child support every month.

After 15 seasons in the NFL where Owens became known as much for his off-the-field antics as his ability to catch, his contract with the Cincinnati Bengals was not renewed for the 2011 season. He couldn’t find an NFL team to sign him, and he signed with the Allen Wranglers of the IFL.