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Divorce: Ex-Husband Cannot Use Lack of Phone Access to Child as Excuse to Not Pay Alimony


In any divorce, you have an expectation that the terms of the divorce will be followed. Whether about kids or money, any failure to follow the terms of the divorce is an enormous problem. In a recent case in Shelby County, Alabama, an ex-husband attempted to use what he said was his former wife’s failure to let him talk to their child on the phone as an excuse to not pay alimony.

In this case, Hopkins v. Hopkins, the couple were divorced a few years previously. As part of the divorce judgment, the wife was awarded child support and $112,000. Additionally, she was awarded rehabilitative alimony to get her on her feet. Soon after, though, the wife filed a lawsuit claiming that the father had not paid the rehabilitative alimony and asking the court hold the father in contempt for not paying it.

In response, the father asked for a custody modification and asked the court hold the mother in contempt for interfering with his visitation rights. Of course, the mother went one step further and asked that the court award her permanent periodic alimony in addition to the rehabilitative alimony. The trial court awarded the mother the periodic alimony and held the father in contempt for refusing to pay the rehabilitative alimony.

On appeal, the father presented several arguments. First, he argued that the mother violated the divorce agreement. He claimed that the mother did not comply with the terms giving him extra visitation and a right of first refusal. A right of first refusal means that if the child requires extended care and the parent is not available, that parent must offer the other parent a chance to take care of the child before anyone else, including grandparents. The appeals court did not take this argument well, however, and noted that allowing the mother to let the child stay with grandparents on the weekends was a reason the trial court sided with the mother. For the mother to be held in contempt she would have had to have willfully or continually denied him the right of first refusal and the husband could not prove that.

The father also argued that the mother did not let him talk to the child on the phone. According to the father, when he called the mother she would say the child was in bed. However, he did not present any evidence showing that the mother said the child was in bed when she actually was not. Also, the mother testified that her and the child always stop whatever they are doing to answer the phone. As a result, the court of appeals found in favor of the mother.

If you are involved in a divorce, having a lawyer will often help you get the best result. It is important to have a lawyer who is experienced with divorce cases. Contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 335-2640 for help with your divorce case.

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