Civil Contempt - Criminal Contempt - Standards of Review: Kizale v. Kizale


Kizale v. Kizale, [Ms. 2160296, Dec. 1, 2017] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2017). This decision by Judge Thomas (Pittman, Moore, and Donaldson, JJ., concur; Thompson, P.J., concurs in the result) affirms in part and reverses in part the Morgan Circuit Court’s order holding the former husband in both criminal and civil contempt for failing to comply with certain provisions of the divorce decree in regard to debts of the former wife.

The court first noted that “‘[t]here is no legal prohibition against the finding of both criminal and civil contempt in an appropriate factual setting.’” Ms. *9, n. 2, quoting Norland v. Tanner, 563 So. 2d 1055, 1058 (Ala. Civ. App. 1990). The court held

“whether a party is in contempt of court is a determination committed to the sound discretion of the trial court, and, absent an abuse of that discretion or unless the judgment of the trial court is unsupported by the evidence so as to be plainly and palpably wrong, this court will affirm.”

Ms. *10, quoting Stack v. Stack, 646 So. 2d 51, 56 (Ala. Civ. App. 1994).

Criminal contempt “requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the alleged contemnor’s guilt.” Ms. *10. Whereas, a finding of civil contempt must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. Ms. *10, n. 3.

The court affirmed the circuit court’s finding that the former husband was in contempt for failing to remove the former wife’s name from various accounts related to debts of the parties. However, the court reversed as to the finding of contempt for the former husband’s failure to refinance certain debts into his sole name because the decree did not require the husband to refinance the debts and accordingly, he could not be held in contempt for having failed to do so. Ms. *21.

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