The penalty which may be imposed for contempt of court for disobeying an order for the payment of child support or spousal support is a fine of not more than $ 500 or imprisonment for not more than three months, or both.
Appellant filed a rule to reduce child support and terminate alimony. Appellee filed a rule for contempt for failure to pay child support and alimony. The 32nd Judicial District Court, Parish of Terrebonne, Louisiana found appellant in contempt, ordered a jail term, and ordered an increase in support. Appellant sought review. Appellant's request for modification of support was based on his alleged change of circumstances, specifically lost income due to an automobile accident. The parties stipulated to appellant's new amount of income. The trial court nevertheless found appellant in contempt, based on substantial arrearages in both alimony and child support that predated the accident.
Was a 14 day jail sentence an abuse of discretion after a contempt finding arising out of a failure to pay child support?
The court of appeal affirmed that finding based on all of the evidence in the record. The court further held that the 14-day jail sentence was not an abuse of discretion. Appellant was afforded proper constitutional protections and his guilt was established beyond a reasonable doubt. The sentence, which could have been as long as three months under the applicable statute, was not excessive. The court remanded for findings of fact supporting the trial court's departure from the child support guidelines and the court's increase of appellant's obligation.
The court affirmed the finding of contempt and affirmed the jail sentence. The court remanded for findings of fact to support the child support determination.