Pursuing a Finding of Contempt of Court in Maryland When Your Ex-Spouse Has Not Met Their Alimony Obligation

Unpaid alimony matters are intensely fact-driven, meaning that your case can be much more successful if your judge has all the facts and is presented with all the circumstances regarding your ex-spouse’s non-compliance. If your ex-spouse isn’t living up to their alimony obligations, you can (and should) seek relief from the courts. And you should act promptly in contacting a knowledgeable Maryland unpaid alimony lawyer about protecting your rights.

The alimony case of F.S. and S.M. was a dispute that involved a large sum of unpaid alimony. The spouses, who divorced after 30 years of marriage, worked out a property settlement agreement that included an alimony provision. The agreement set the initial alimony amount at $1,500 but said that, if the wife no longer lived in the marital home, the amount of alimony was $3,250 per month.

The wife moved out in September 2016.

In December 2019, the wife asked the court to find the husband in contempt because he had not paid his alimony. Before the trial judge, the husband argued that he never agreed to anything regarding alimony in the separation agreement. After the hearing, the court concluded that the husband was in contempt, having never paid any alimony. The court set the husband’s unpaid alimony amount at $130,750.

As a tangential note, the wife lost out on many months of alimony because she did not file her petition sooner. Maryland law has a three-year statute of limitations for claiming unpaid alimony, so the law barred her from recouping anything for July 2015 to December 2016.

The husband appealed the trial judge’s contempt finding, first arguing that the proper procedure was not followed. Specifically, he contended that Rule 15-206(c) required the issuance of a “Show Cause Order.” Because he didn’t receive one, he couldn’t be found in contempt, he argued.

The Husband’s Trial Court Waiver Shot Down Appellate Arguments About Service

The appeals court rejected that argument. While the husband arguably never received a show cause order after the wife’s amended contempt petition, the proof was clear that he did receive one following the wife’s original petition. At the hearing before the trial judge, the wife agreed to forego her amended petition and proceed on the original petition, and the husband “plainly… waived any defects in the service of the [original] contempt petition.”

The wife defeated the husband’s second argument before the appeals court due to the inconsistent positions the husband took. That argument contended that the husband couldn’t be in contempt because the wife never notified him she had moved out of the house, meaning he had no notice that he owed a larger sum of alimony. This argument failed because the husband’s defense had always been that he had no knowledge that he had any alimony obligation of any amount at any time post-divorce. That defense was inherently inconsistent with a subsequent argument that the wife had failed to meet a mandatory precondition to trigger an increase in the sum that he owed.

By taking action, the wife secured a judgment that said the husband owed more than $130,000. However, her extended delay actually cost her an additional $27,000 (in alimony for 2015 and 2016.) Whether you are seeking alimony judgment enforcement, modification, or termination, the experienced Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC can help. Our attorneys proudly offer each client the diligent advocacy and personalized attention necessary for managing family law matters. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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