McAdam v. McAdam: On Divorce Settlement Agreements and Contempt of Court

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Oct 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Sometimes a divorce settlement can be reached in an amicable manner in which parties agree to all terms and can go on with the rest of their lives without years of litigation.  Unfortunately, that is often not the case.  McAdam v. McAdam, an appeal heard in the Supreme Court of the State of Wyoming, was one of those cases.

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In McAdam, Husband and Wife were granted a divorce under what is known as a stipulated decree.  The decree was granted by the trial court in May of 2011.  In that stipulated decree, both Husband and Wife agreed to list the martial home for sale with a professional real estate agent no later than 30 days after the court entered the decree.

The parties also agreed to work together with the real estate agent in a cooperative manner to do what was reasonably necessary to assist with the sale of the house.  Both parties would need to consent to accept any offer made on the property and both parties would need to agree on any counteroffer made to the prospective buyer.   After the sale of the home, both parties would split proceeds equally after the costs and commissions were paid and the balance of the mortgage was satisfied.

In the decree, Husband was granted the sole right to occupy the house until the sale, and he was to make the mortgage payments and pay for all utilities in a timely manner until the sale.  Husband was allowed to claim the all payments associated with the home on his taxes as a deduction. The agreement also provided that Wife would be entitled to half of Husband's investment accounts and stock portfolio.

Finally, the stipulated decree stated that if any party was in breach of the agreement, the defaulting party would be responsible for all attorney's fees, costs, and expenses related to the default.  As our Birmingham divorce attorneysunderstand, some former spouses will try to avoid living up to the agreement, despite the fact they previously agreed to all terms.

In January of 2012, Wife filed an order to show cause in which she alleged that Husband was in breach of the agreement by not listing the house for sale within 30 days and had allowed he home to sustain flood damage, causing a substantial diminution in value.  Wife sought to hold Husband in contempt and requested a court order that he pay for all repairs and list home for sale.

Husband counterclaimed that Wife was in contempt for not listing the home for sale.  After a hearing, the court concluded that both parties were at fault and ordered that the home be listed within 30 days and sold in its current state of repair. The court declined to award any party attorney's fees or costs.

In March of 2013, Wife filed another similar motion, and Husband filed a similar reply.  Once again, the court found both parties in contempt.  The court ordered that the home would be listed for sale in 30 days, and, if not sold in 90 days, Wife would be responsible for half the mortgage payment. Wife appealed this order.

On appeal, the Court looked at the issue of whether the trial court had the authority to modify the terms of the stipulated agreement. The court agreed that both parties were in contempt of court and that the trial court did not err in the reformation of the agreement. The ruling of the trial court was affirmed.

Additional Resources:

McAdam v. McAdam, October 3, 2014, Supreme Court of Wyoming

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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