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Family Court Restrained From Holding Husband in Contempt for Non-payment of Spousal Maintenance

Mr. and Mrs. Vandyke were married for thirty-five years. The marriage ended in 2007. Mr. Vandyke was supposed to pay his wife $400.00 in spousal maintenance (alimony) per week until she reached the age of sixty-two.

Mr. Vandyke failed to make his spousal maintenance payments. A hearing was held before Supreme Magistrate Rika Murray in the Family Court of Albany County. Court Magistrate Murray found that Mr. Vandyke had willfully violated his financial obligations to pay spousal maintenance to his wife. The Support Magistrate found that he was $11,774 in arrears.

Mr. Vandyke Appeals the Support Magistrate’s Decision to Family Court Judge Ducan

Judge Ducan reviewed the decision of Support Magistrate Rika Murray. He found that a party should not be held in contempt for failing to make spousal maintenance payments on a timely basis unless there were no other “less drastic” means of collecting this debt. He therefore refused to confirm the Support Magistrate’s finding that Kenneth G. Vandyke willfully failed to pay his maintenance payments.

In his decision, Judge Ducan compared and contrasted the procedures concerning the enforcement of spousal maintenance in the Family Court and the Supreme Court. Judge Ducan found that in the Supreme Court, a party cannot be held in contempt unless the court concludes that there are no other remedies available to collect this debt. He stated, “Family Court cannot be granted any jurisdictional authority that is not available to the Supreme Court, because Supreme Court has plenary jurisdiction over all causes of action”. Judge Ducan stated that before a court could determine that a party should be held in contempt, it must look into whether there are alternatives, such as giving security or enforcing the judgment by income execution or income deduction audit.

Rules For Contempt

Judge Ducan’s decision indicates that the Family Court should be covered by the same rules regarding contempt as the Supreme Court. He remanded the case for further consideration. This is a victory for fathers’ rights.

Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens Father’s Rights Lawyers

Our law office has been representing fathers and protecting their rights for three decades. We litigate all aspects of divorce proceedings. We deal with equitable distribution of assets, spousal maintenance, child support, paternity, orders of protection, child custody, child visitation, child abuse and child neglect cases. When our clients lose their jobs, we bring downward modification of support proceedings. When either of the parents need to relocate, we deal with relocation issues related to child custody.

We also represent fathers concerning issues involving parental alienation syndrome. This is where one parent engages in parental alienation of a child by making disparaging comments about the father or criticizing the father in front of the child. Call us for a free consultation at 1-800-344-6431, 516-561-6645 or 718-350-2802. Our phones are monitored 24/7.

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