Parisi v. Parisi, a case from the Connecticut Supreme Court involved husband and wife whose marriage was dissolved on November 19, 2010.
When their marriage was dissolved, trial court incorporated a separation agreement into its divorce decree. Both parties created this separation agreement with help from counsel months prior to obtaining a divorce decree. It was finalized eight days prior to trial judge signing a divorce decree.
In one of the sections titled “Alimony and Child Support,” it provided no periodic alimony payable or requested from husband to wife or from wife to husband. Instead of alimony, husband would pay wife a nontaxable/nondeductible alimony amount of $300,000 from his share of the marital estate prior to date divorce decree was entered on the record.
Prior to the decree being entered, husband provided wife a spreadsheet attached to his financial affidavit, along with account information showing balances totaling $300,000 marked alimony buyout.
By December 15, 2010 wife had not received the money and filed a motion for contempt and clarification. As our Birmingham divorce attorneys can explain, it is sometimes necessary to file a show cause or contempt of court motion if the other party does not comply with terms of their agreement. These motions often involve nonpayment of child support or alimony, though they can be filed for any failure to follow a court order, such as not going for mental health evaluation.
Husband defended the contempt motion by claiming the decree did not specify which accounts he was to use to provide her payment, and he was working diligently to pay her the full sum.
At a hearing on the motion, wife admitted she had heard from husband's attorney, and he was trying to pay money from his retirement account. She argued this was unacceptable and contrary to their agreement. While the spreadsheet indicated money was to come from retirement account, she further claimed she did not have a chance to read it before entering into agreement. Trial court denied her motion for contempt. She appealed, and intermediary court of appeals unanimously affirmed trial court's denial of her motion.
She then appealed to the state supreme court. In this appeal, court looked at whether trial court should have ordered compliance on the part of husband. First, appellate court looked at the meaning of contempt. It concluded contempt involved a willful disobedience of a court order. If a party cannot comply with a court order through no fault of his own, a contempt cannot be enforced.
However, appellate court made a further distinction between holding a party in contempt, for which a sanction might be appropriate, and ordering compliance with a court's order. Here the court noted there was reason for a predicate finding husband was in contempt. There was an agreed upon order already in place for husband to pay wife $300,000, and it was in err not to enforce that earlier order.
It was clear there was an agreement to pay $300,000 upon trial court entering a divorce decree, and trial judge should have ordered husband to make prompt payment. For this reason, appellate court reversed and remanded case.
If you are seeking a divorce in Birmingham, contact Family Law Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.