Toussaint v. King (North Carolina 2020)

July 2020

In a civil contempt hearing, the trial court must find that the parent willfully failed to comply with the support order and has the present ability to pay any purge condition. The parents in this case had a long history of litigation over child support. In this appeal, the father appealed an order finding him contempt and sentencing him to jail for 30 days. He could be released earlier upon payment of an amount towards his child support arrears. He made two arguments on appeal: the evidence didn’t support the finding that he had the ability to pay the order and the order lacked the required finding that he had the present ability to pay the purge payment. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The order contained the required finding of ability to pay the support obligation. The record contained testimony and exhibits that supported his ability to pay the order. However, the court of appeals found that the order didn’t contain the required finding that the father had the present ability to meet the purge condition. The court of appeals noted ample evidence in the record to support this finding but no corresponding language in the order. The court of appeals reversed on this ground and remanded for additional findings of fact.