Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Case Law Development: Power of Courts to Amend Divorce Decrees in Contempt Actions

After Father, who had custody of daughter, moved to terminate Mother’s visitation, the court ordered the entire family into counseling and ordered that parents split the costs of therapy. When Mother failed to pay her share of the counseling bills, Father moved for contempt. Father presented a claim for over $6,000 in unreimbursed medical expenses, a number of which were for medical expenses other than psychological counseling. The trial court did not find Mother in contempt, but did find an arrearage owed to Father for one half of unreimbursed medical expenses. Mother then failed to pay the ordered arrearage and the court then found Mother in contempt and ordered her jailed until she paid three monthly installments.

The Connecticut Court of Appeals reversed the arrearage order, holding that the scope of a court’s authority in a contempt proceeding is limited to determining whether an order has been violated. “A motion for contempt addresses only whether a party has violated a particular court order. It does not address what that particular court order should be…. Accordingly, the court improperly ordered payment of medical expenses other than those provided for in the initial… order.” The court reversed the judgment and remanded for a recalculation limiting the order to expenses associated with therapy sessions.

Kalinowski v. Kropelnicki, 2005 Conn. App. LEXIS 489 (November 22, 2005)
Opinion on the web at (last visited November 30, 2005 bgf)

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