Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Family Law Procedure

Can a party be held in contempt if the party never received notice that a contempt complaint was pending against him or her? A recent appellate case reinforces the right of litigants to due process - that is, the right of each party to be heard and to receive notice of proceedings against him/her. 

In the case Kane v. Kane, 3D16-247 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018), the parties were divorced and the husband was ordered to pay alimony to the wife. After the entry of the final judgment, an order of referral to the general magistrate was entered referring the case for hearing on a motion for contempt. No motion for contempt was attached to the order, nor did any appear on the docket. 

The former husband lived in Israel, but he sent a lawyer to appear at the hearing on his behalf. The lawyer told the court that he did not receive the purported contempt motion and none appeared on the docket. The court informed the lawyer that the former wife's pro se letter to the court regarding the former husband's failure to pay alimony was deemed a motion for contempt. The lawyer reiterated that he had not seen the "motion" and that it was not filed on the docket. Nonetheless, the court found the former husband in contempt and recommended that a warrant be issued for his arrest. 

The former husband appealed on the ground that he was denied due process because he never saw a copy of the motion/letter submitted to the court by the former wife, and therefore he did not have adequate chance to prepare for the hearing or defend against the former wife's claims. The appellate court agreed with the former husband and reversed the trial court's order, holding the former husband was denied due process. The trial court was instructed to hold another hearing to give the former husband adequate time to prepare. 

If you are facing a judgment for unpaid alimony, contact a Miami divorce lawyer to understand your best options in moving forward.