In Contempt Proceeding, Court Awards Mother Counsel Fees and Statutory Interest

In a post judgment dissolution of marriage action, the Court awarded an ex-wife both counsel fees and statutory interest after finding that the ex-husband had willfully violated an Order related to payment of daycare expenses.  The parties were divorced in 2005 after a seventeen year marriage.  The parents of three minor children, they were both college educated and employed throughout the marriage.  The wife was a registered nurse and the ex-husband was a college professor.  Pursuant to the original judgment of dissolution, the ex-husband was obligated to pay the wife child support in a designated amount each week, plus 41% of any work related child care costs.  He was also obligated to pay a designated sum in alimony for a period of eight years, plus an additional $1.00 per year for thirteen and one-half years thereafter.

At trial, the ex-wife presented evidence showing that she incurred work related daycare expenses in the amount of $42,674.00 between 2005 and 2010.  She further claimed that the husband did not reimburse her for his portion.  The ex-husband testified that he assumed his ex-wife was working, but did not know she would need paid daycare since in the past she had used relatives or live-in nannies.  However, the ex-husband also admitted that he received various daycare records and bank statements from his ex-wife, but- indeed- did not reimburse her.

In reviewing the law regarding motions for contempt, the Court explained that a movant must demonstrate not only that the non-moving party violated a court order, but that his or her conduct was willful.  The Court noted that a finding of contempt was appropriate in this particular case because the defendant failed to offer a valid excuse for not paying for daycare even after receiving formal notice from his ex-wife.  Citing Connecticut General Statutes § 37-3a, the Court also Ordered the ex-husband to pay to his ex-wife statutory interest in the amount of 6% per year on the amount due, commencing on the date of its decision.  Exercising its discretion under Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-87, the Court further Ordered the ex-husband to pay the ex-wife counsel fees as an additional penalty for his noncompliance.

Should you have any questions regarding contempt proceedings, or matrimonial matters generally, please do not hesitate to contact Joseph C. Maya.  He can be reached by telephone in the firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at jmaya@mayalaw.com.