The trial court entered a judgment of dissolution. A few days before trial, the wife’s attorney was allowed to withdraw from representing her. On the same date that the attorney had filed the motion to withdraw.

The wife was awarded a condo owned by the parties. Their wife was required to pay all expenses associated with the condo. She was to refinance the condo in her name only. The wife was also prohibited from leasing the condo until she had obtained refinancing.

Husband later filed a Petition for Rule to Show Cause against wife. He alleged that she had failed to pay certain expenses associated with the condo. And by leasing the condo prior to obtaining refinancing.

The trial court found a wife in indirect civil contempt for leasing the condo before she had obtained refinancing. The trial court ordered her to pay $5300.00. This was the amount she collected in rent. She needed to do this to purge her contempt.

The wife filed a motion to reconsider. She argued that although the trial court stated that it found her in indirect civil contempt, it actually found her to be in indirect criminal contempt.

As a result, she argued, she was entitled to certain procedural protections, which she was not afforded. After a hearing on her motion to reconsider, the trial court denied her motion to reconsider with respect to the finding of indirect civil contempt. Wife appealed.

The Appellate Court said that the trial court was presumed to be wrong in its rulings. On the trial court’s granting of the wife’s former attorney’s motion to withdraw. And the trial court’s finding that she was in indirect civil contempt of court. The written record from the trial court was not complete.

The Contempt finding was reversed. The trial court claimed to find the wife in indirect civil contempt. But, it actually found her in indirect criminal contempt. And it did not afford her the procedural protections required for a finding of criminal contempt.

The court sought to punish the wife for an act that could not be undone, as it was in the past and could not be corrected (leasing condo in violation of the judgment of dissolution. It was thus criminal contempt.

The Trial Court failed to give the wife notice that she could be subject to criminal penalties. It failed to admonish her of her constitutional rights. It failed to find her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In re Marriage of Pavlovich, 2019 IL App (1st) 172859 (April 16, 2019)

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