Is paying joint debt but not maintenance contempt in WI? | Sterling Law Offices, S.C. global $post;
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– from Mary T. in Bayside, WI

Question Details:

My husband and I have been divorced for about a year. I have custody of our two children. He was ordered to pay child support and maintenance. The divorce judgment declared that we both pay 50% of our joint debt, as well. I have not been able to pay my share of the debt and I feel the child support payments are too low. He has also only been making partial maintenance payments to me. Can I bring a contempt case against him in court?

Family Law Attorney Response:

This is a tricky question and there is not an easy to answer. There are several factors that the courts will consider before making a final decision. Your husband is obligated to obey a courts decision, but you are also obligated to follow the same ruling. You can make a case against him for his failure to pay the full amount of maintenance, but he in turn, could make a case against you for failing to pay off your share of the joint debt.

In the case of Young v. Young 124 Wis. 2d 306, 369 N.W.2d 178 (Ct. App. 1985), a similar situation occurred and the wife brought a case against her husband for contempt and made further requests of modification. She was denied all requests, and the husband was not found in contempt. One of the reasons for this ruling was that the husband paid both shares of the joint debt. Failure to pay off debt can have long repercussions on credit and can affect someone’s future. In addition, an increase request may have been justified, but the court does not have to allow it. This is only one example, but your case is completely individual and will be treated as such.

My advice is to consult an experienced lawyer who specializes in family law in order to discuss the best course of action.

Dan Exner, J.D.

Family Law Attorney

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