Contempt of Court for Unpaid Child Support in AZ | Hildebrand Law, PC
Table of Contents
Arizona law provides numerous ways a court can enforce child support obligations. Some remedies are found in the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, (URESA). One of these is contempt of court. A court has authority under URESA to enforce support while the child is a minor. What about after the child has reached majority? In Tande v. Bongiovanni, 688 P.2d 1012 (1984) the Arizona Supreme Court addressed this issue.
Facts and Procedure
Mr. Bongiovanni and Mrs. Tande married in Nevada in 1962. They had two children, one in 1962 and one in 1964. In 1965, the couple divorced in California. The court gave Mrs. Tande custody and ordered the husband to pay child support of $75 per month per child. He made only a few of the required payments.
In 1980, Mrs. Tande lived in Virginia and Mr. Bongiovanni in Arizona. The wife filed support proceedings under the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act against Mr. Bongiovanni. Arizona was the responding state.
The Arizona court held a hearing in December 1980. It found that the husband had not made payments for ten years. It ordered him to pay $75 per month to support the one remaining minor child. The court did not rule on the issue of back support until it clarified the amount due.
The husband paid the $75 per month payments until the child reached the age of eighteen. The issue of the arrearages remained unresolved. In September 1982, the Pima County Attorney’s Office filed for wage assignment on behalf of Mrs. Tande for arrearages.
The trial court dismissed the action since all post-1981 payments had been made. It found it was without jurisdiction to adjudicate pre-1981 arrearages under URESA once the children achieved the age of majority. Mrs. Tande appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed. It held that the trial court can adjudicate arrearages under URESA even though the children are no longer minors.
The Court further held, however, that contempt was not a proper way to enforce the court decree. The Arizona Supreme Court granted the husband’s petition for review. It agreed to address a court’s use of contempt of court to enforce payment of arrears.
Arrearages under URESA
The Arizona Supreme Court agreed with the ruling of the Court of Appeals. It agreed that a court can determine arrearages under URESA even when children are no longer minors. It approved the decision and opinion of the Court of Appeals as to that issue. It then turned to the auxiliary issue.
Can courts use contempt to enforce support orders under URESA after children reach majority?
Cordova Case Enforced Contract
The Court of Appeals ruled that contempt was not a proper way to enforce the court decree. It cited State ex rel. Cordova v. Cordova, 520 P.2d 525 (1974). The Cordova court held that contempt was not available to enforce a judgment for arrearages in child support after a child has reached majority.
The Cordova court (of appeals) stated: The mere fact that this case arises under the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act does not, as appellant would have us hold, enlarge the jurisdiction of Superior Court.
The court in Cordova relied on Ruhsam v. Ruhsam, 518 P.2d 576, that found contempt unavailable. In Ruhsam, the wife was trying to collect support under a postnuptial contract after the child reached the legal majority. The duty of support was based on the contract, not on a court child support order. The instant case is not a contract case.
Here, Mrs. Tande is attempting to collect court-ordered child support for the period the child was a minor. Ruhsam, therefore, does not apply.
The Supreme Court ruled that the result is different when the case arises under URESA rather than a contract.
Enforcing Court-Ordered Support under URESA
The URESA statute states: All duties of support, including the duty to pay arrearages, are enforceable by a proceeding under this article, including a proceeding for civil contempt. The defense that the parties are immune to suit because of their relationship as husband and wife or parent and child is not available to the obligor.
Court decisions are split as to whether contempt may be used to enforce a support order once the child attains majority. The majority view holds that contempt may not be used because the children are no longer dependent. Therefore, the purpose and justification for the extreme remedy of contempt terminate.
The minority view is that courts can use contempt to enforce support obligations even after the child reaches majority. The rationale is that failure to pay court-ordered child support remains willfully disobedient after the child reaches majority. The affront to the court is the same. The Supreme Court agreed.
If a custodial parent loses the contempt remedy once the child becomes emancipated, she can only execute on the obligor’s property. If the obligor parent has no property, the custodial parent may have no effective remedy at all. This imposes upon the custodial spouse or society the financial burden that is lawfully the other parent’s burden.
The Arizona Supreme Court found the minority view more persuasive. It ruled that an Arizona trial court can use contempt even after the child reaches majority. It found that this would discourage attempts to stall payments until the children come of age.
The Arizona Supreme Court vacated that part of the ruling stating that contempt may not be used to enforce arrearages. It ruled that the use of contempt in URESA proceedings is appropriate even if the children have reached majority. It approved the other parts of the Court of Appeals ruling. The Court overruled the Cordova ruling to the extent it is inconsistent with this opinion. It remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
If you have questions about contempt of court for unpaid child support in an Arizona divorce case, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona child support and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in child support and family law cases.
Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.
Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your Arizona child support or family law case around today.
Other Articles About Child Support in Arizona
- ARIZONA CHILD SUPPORT LAWS
- ARIZONA UNIFORM INTERSTATE FAMILY SUPPORT ACT (UIFSA) STATUTES
- ATTRIBUTING INCOME FOR CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- DIVIDING UNCOVERED MEDICAL EXPENSES IN AN ARIZONA CHILD SUPPORT CASE
- THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHILD SUPPORT AND DEBTS IN ARIZONA
- THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- DUE PROCESS REQUIRES NOTICE OF A CHILD SUPPORT MODIFICATION
- CHILD SUPPORT DEVIATION IN ARIZONA
- IS AN INCREASE IN INCOME CAUSE TO MODIFY CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- CHILD SUPPORT AND ASSETS IN ARIZONA
- EFFECT OF EMPLOYMENT BENEFITS ON CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- EFFECT OF STOCK OPTIONS ON CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- MODIFYING CHILD SUPPORT FROM ANOTHER STATE IN ARIZONA
- CHILD SUPPORT MUST BE MODIFIED WHENEVER CHILD CUSTODY ORDERS CHANGE IN ARIZONA
- REGISTERING A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER IN ARIZONA
- BURDEN OF PROOF FOR A DEVIATION IN CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- REIMBURSEMENT FOR OVERPAID CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- GIFTS AND FREE RENT MAY BE INCOME FOR CHILD SUPPORT PURPOSES
- COURT DISCRETION TO ADD RECURRING GIFTS AS INCOME FOR CHILD SUPPORT
- CHILD SUPPORT AND THE NARCISSIST PARENT
- INCLUDING INCOME FROM A SECOND JOB IN ARIZONA CHILD SUPPORT CALCULATIONS
- STANDARD OF PROOF TO ESTABLISH A WAIVER OF PAST CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- CHILD SUPPORT CANNOT BE A PERCENTAGE OF A PARENT’S INCOME IN ARIZONA
- WHAT IS A WAGE ASSIGNMENT IN ARIZONA
- THE AGE WHEN CHILD SUPPORT ENDS IN ARIZONA
- SSDI PAYMENTS OFFSET MEDICAL EXPENSES FOR A CHILD IN ARIZONA
- MODIFYING CHILD SUPPORT WHEN NEITHER PARENT LIVES IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO MODIFY OR ENFORCE A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER ISSUED IN ANOTHER STATE
- HOW TO MAKE ARIZONA CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS
- HOW IS INCOME CALCULATED FOR CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- HOW TO ENFORCE A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER IN ARIZONA
- WHAT IS CONSIDERED GROSS INCOME FOR ARIZONA CHILD SUPPORT
- CALCULATING A PARENT’S INCOME FOR CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- ERRORS IN REGISTERING A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER FROM ANOTHER STATE IN ARIZONA
- DOMESTICATING A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER IN ARIZONA
- CHILD SUPPORT AND AN UNEMPLOYED PARENT IN ARIZONA
- WHAT DOCTORS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- CAN A NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT RECEIVE CHILDREN’S SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS IN ARIZONA
- START DATE FOR TEMPORARY SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- EFFECT OF DENIAL OF VISITATION ON CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS IN ARIZONA
- ARIZONA CHILD SUPPORT FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- EFFECT OF ERRORS IN REGISTERING A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER FROM ANOTHER STATE IN ARIZONA
- WHEN YOU CAN MODIFY CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- GIFT INCOME AND MODIFICATION OF CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- WAIVER OF PAST CHILD SUPPORT BY AGREEMENT IN ARIZONA
- UPWARD DEVIATION IN CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- MODIFYING A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY
- OBJECTION TO CHILD SUPPORT ARREARS IN UIFSA DOMESTICATION IN ARIZONA
- CAN A SPOUSE’S INCOME BE CONSIDERED FOR CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- LEGAL METHODS OF COLLECTING CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS IN ARIZONA
- ENFORCEMENT OF A FOREIGN COUNTRY CHILD SUPPORT ORDER IN ARIZONA
- DRIVERS LICENSE RESTRICTIONS FOR UNPAID CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- CAN A LOAN BE INCLUDED AS INCOME FOR CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- OVERPAYMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- PAST DUE SUPPORT PAYMENTS APPLY FIRST TO CHILD SUPPORT BEFORE ALIMONY
- CALCULATING CHILD SUPPORT WITH SPLIT CUSTODY OF CHILDREN IN ARIZONA
- EFFECT OF DELAY IN COLLECTING CHILD SUPPORT ARREARAGES IN ARIZONA
- RECOVERING CHILD SUPPORT NOT ORDERED IN A DIVORCE DECREE IN ARIZONA
- LEGAL OPTIONS FOR COLLECTING CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS IN ARIZONA
- ARIZONA COURT’S AUTHORITY TO HEAR CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS
- IMPACT OF WITHHOLDING A CHILD ON CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- SISTER STATE’S RIGHT TO MODIFY ARIZONA CHILD SUPPORT RULING
- IS A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER VOID IF IT DOES NOT MENTION ARREARS IN ARIZONA
- CHILD SUPPORT OBLIGATIONS OF A MINOR IN ARIZONA
- TIME LIMIT TO COLLECT CHILD SUPPORT ARREARAGES IN ARIZONA
- RETROACTIVE MODIFICATION OF A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER IN ARIZONA
- CONTEMPT OF COURT FOR UNPAID CHILD SUPPORT ARREARAGES IN ARIZONA
- SUPPORT FOR DISABLED ADULT CHILDREN IN ARIZONA
- CALCULATING INCOME FOR CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- THREE YEAR LIMITATION FOR COLLECTING CHILD SUPPORT ARREARAGES
- DISMISSING MODIFICATION OF CHILD SUPPORT FOR NOT DISCLOSING FINANCIAL DOCUMENTS
- ARIZONA CHILD SUPPORT MODIFICATIONS MUST INCLUDE ANY CHANGES IN PARENTING TIME
- EQUITABLE DEFENSES TO FAMILY SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
- AFFIDAVIT OF CHILD SUPPORT ARREARS FROM ANOTHER STATE IN ARIZONA
- PERSONAL JURISDICTION AND CHILD SUPPORT ARREARAGES IN ARIZONA
- PERSONAL JURISDICTION OVER A NON-RESIDENT IN AN ARIZONA CHILD SUPPORT CASE
- ARIZONA CRIMINAL LAW FOR NON-PAYMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT IS CONSTITUTIONAL
- BURDEN OF PROOF IN A MODIFICATION OF CHILD SUPPORT CASE IN ARIZONA
- FULL FAITH AND CREDIT CLAUSE REQUIRES PERSONAL JURISDICTION TO ENFORCE SUPPORT ORDERS
- CHILD SUPPORT IN A BANK ACCOUNT IS EXEMPT FROM EXECUTION BY CREDITORS
- NON-PARENT LAWSUIT FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT IN ARIZONA
As Seen on CBS News, ABC News, NBC News, and Fox News