July 2020 | No. COA19-914 (N.C. Ct. App. 2020)

Price v. Biggs (North Carolina 2020)

In a civil contempt proceeding, the burden is on the moving party to prove contempt. The trial court must address each contempt element in the order. The mother filed a motion to modify child support. At the first hearing, the mother presented her evidence. At the close of her case, the trial court didn’t hear from the father. Instead, the court asked the parties attempt to settle the matter. Settlement failed, and the trial court held a second hearing. Each parent had 25 minutes to present evidence. The trial court denied the father’s request for additional time. The order after hearing found the father in contempt for failure to pay child support. He appealed and argued the trial court made insufficient findings to support the contempt and violated his due process by not giving him adequate time to present his case. The court of appeals agreed. The trial court’s findings didn’t address two contempt elements: willful failure to pay and ability to pay the current order. The court wrongfully placed the burden of proof on the father. As for due process, the appellate court found a violation of the father’s due process in that he wasn’t given sufficient time to present his case. The order gave no good reason for the lack of additional time. If the court didn’t have time that day, the matter could have been reset.

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