Ex-husband's contempt of divorce order upheld on appeal

On September 10, 2014 the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld the ruling of Sheboygan County Circuit Court Judge Angela W. Sutkiewicz.  In the matter the ex-husband appealed from the court order that found him in contempt for failure to report substantial changes in his income; such reporting was required by his divorce judgment. The judge also directed that he may purge the contempt by making a payment to his ex-wife. The payment was to compensate her for the lost opportunity to seek increased child support and for her attorney fees. 

On appeal the ex-husband points out that the divorce order failed to inform him, as the statutes mandate, that he and his ex-wife should annually exchange financial information and that he should inform his ex-wife of substantial changes in his income within ten days. See Wis. Stat. §§ 767.27 and 767.263 (2003-04). He claims that he cannot be held in contempt for something he did not know he had to do.  The appellate court rejected that argument. 

The appellate court stated:

“(the ex-husband) was not entitled to sit on his hands and tell no one about his increased income.  His responsibility was to let the court know, through the clerk of courts.   It is no answer that he claims not to have willfully violated this order.  The order was as plain as day.  We conclude that the underlying order imposed a clear obligation to inform the court of his changed income, that (the ex-husband) willfully violated that portion of the order, and that there was no error in the court’s exercise of its discretion in exercising its contempt power here.”

Even though the omission was contrary to the clear import of the statutes, the court order did order him “to notify the Sheboygan County Clerk of Courts of any change of employer or any change in the amount of income such that his ability to pay child support is affected, within ten (10) days of such change.” 

 

COURT OF APPEALS, DISTRICT II, Appeal Number 2014AP813

In re the finding of contempt in In re marriage of: Tulga Q. Ozbaki, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Sylwia M. Altass, f/k/a Sylwia M. Ozbaki, Respondent-Respondent.