Friday, March 8, 2013

Contempt: Must Show Direct Harm to Appeal a Finding of Noncontempt of an Opposing Party

Summer v. Summer, 2012 UT App. 159, Utah Court of Appeals, June 1, 2012

Wife obtained a Temporary Order that required Husband to pay her health insurance. Husband failed to pay for the insurance.  The insurance cancelled her coverage. Husband was found in contempt. 

Husband and Wife agreed Husband reinstate the insurance.  Husband failed to do so and was found in contempt again, he was ordered him to serve the original 30 days for each contempt.  The parties also agreed that they would “look into filing a bankruptcy.”  Husband filed bankruptcy. Wife did not.

Husband appealed both the trial court’s failure to hold Wife in contempt for her failure to file bankruptcy.

The Court evaluated first whether a party has standing to appeal a failure of a court hold a person in contempt.  The Court determined in this case that because Wife’s failure to file bankruptcy resulted in a disproportionate property and alimony award, Husband did have standing because a finding of contempt on that issue could have decreased his alimony obligation and could have resulted in a more equitable property distribution.  However, because the agreement was only to “look into” filing bankruptcy, there was no requirement for wife to file bankruptcy. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s finding of noncotnempt.

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