You can request punishment for contempt, but cannot modify the terms of the final divorce decree.

In Sponsler v. Sponsler, Wife was awarded a rental property as part of the divorce; however, the rental property was titled in Husband’s name. The decree stated that Wife was responsible for the debt on the rental as of March 1, 2009. The decree also required Wife to transfer the debt on the rental out of Husband’s name a short time thereafter.

Upon entering the property after the decree was issued, Wife learned the property was in such significant disrepair that it was uninhabitable. Husband also refused to sign a quitclaim deed to allow Wife to transfer the debt out of Husband’s name. As a result, Wife was unable to sell the property and it fell into further disrepair.

The trial court ordered Husband to pay Wife $35,000 to repair the property, and that each party be equally responsible for the debt and taxes on the property. The Court of Appeals held that was an improper modification of the decree because it violated the intent of the decree, which was for Wife to be responsible for the debt going forward. Requiring Husband to pay half the debt and the taxes was the opposite of that intent.

If your spouse is in contempt of a divorce decree, you may need to be prudent with the punishment you request, so as to encourage compliance with the order while not changing the intent of it. If your spouse has failed to comply with an aspect of your decree, feel free to contact The Millard Law Firm. Our attorneys have the experience necessary to handle contempt cases.