Wife Found in Contempt of Court’s “Automatic Orders”

In a relatively recent decision rendered in a dissolution of marriage action, a wife was found in contempt for depriving her husband of information regarding the parties’ two minor children in violation of the court’s “automatic orders.”  In this particular case, the parties were married 1991, and were the parents of two children.  At the time of trial the husband was forty-three years old and in generally good health.  He had an associate’s degree and worked for a supply company earning approximately $51,000 annually.  The wife was also forty-three years old and in generally good health.  Although she stayed home to care for the family for a better part of the marriage, in 1999 she began working as an independent contractor selling kitchen products.  Later, she worked for a local board of education, and at the time of trial, was employed with a local newspaper earning roughly $20,000, plus commission, annually.

During the divorce proceedings, the husband filed a motion for contempt claiming the wife violated the court’s automatic orders in that she left the marital residence with the children and refused to disclose their location.  In reviewing the merits of the husband’s motion, the court noted that in a civil contempt proceeding, the movant must show by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of a clear and unambiguous court order, and willful noncompliance with that order.  According to the court’s “automatic orders,” entered upon the commencement of every divorce action, neither party is permitted to remove children from the State of Connecticut without prior written consent of the other parent.  Additionally, a party vacating the marital residence with minor children must notify the other parent of the move, and must provide the other parent of an address where the relocated party can be contacted.  Finally, where parents live separate and apart during a divorce proceeding, pursuant to the “automatic orders,” they must assist their children in having contact with both parents.

In this particular case, the court found that because the wife was served in hand with a notice of automatic orders, she clearly knew she had an obligation to inform the husband in writing of any relocation.  The court found that she also knew she had a duty to assist her children in having contact with their father.  Nevertheless, the wife willfully removed the children from the home, and kept their address from the husband absent a valid reason for doing so.  As a result, the husband did not know where the children were living until the day of trial.  The court further found that the wife willfully kept the children from having contact with their father in violation of the court’s clear and unambiguous automatic orders.

Should you have any questions regarding automatic court orders, or divorce proceedings in general, please feel free to contact Attorney Michael D. DeMeola, Esq.  He can be reached in the firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at mdemeola@mayalaw.com.
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If you have any questions or would like to speak to an attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation. Divorce is difficult, education is power. Call today.

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