Legal Question in Family Law in District of Columbia

Contempt of Court - Name Change

When I divorced, my wife agreed to:

1. Change her name back to her maiden name.

2. Take care of the lease on the Nissan Maxima that she was driving.

I took care of my obligations! She agreed to change her last name. She has a balance due to Nissan which she says she won't pay.

Here is the question ... since she did not change her name ... can I pursue a breach of contract or contempt of court? It was VERY important to me that she no longer uses my last name. After the divorce ... I was told that anyone can use any name they want ... yet ... no one told me this during the negotiations! My feeling is that her commmitment in the court ... should supercede the usual freedom that people have.

I want to stop paying Alimony until she complies with the name change and paying off Nissan which is affecting my credit? Can I do this?

Asked on 4/18/03, 12:09 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Tiziana Ventimiglia Tiziana Ventimiglia, Attorney at Law
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Re: Contempt of Court - Name Change

There is no easy answer without looking at your divorce papers. just the fact that she asked in her petition for divorce for her maiden name back, it does not mean that she "has to" take her maiden name back. However, a decree of divorce may have specified and mandated that this had to happen pursuant to the agreement of the parties. As far as the Nissan obligation... you can go back to court to enforce the parties agreement that she would pay off the car loan. if you were a borrower/coborrower or co-signer on the car loan you are responsible for the payments just as much as she is, even if now you are divorced. If debt collectors are calling you or if missed payments are ruining your credit... you will not be able to simply show your divorce papers to say that you are no longer responsible. Finally, rather than just stop paying for the alimony, you should go back to Court to address her failure to pay the debt.

Feel free to contact me if you have further questions at 202/271-5983.

Sincerely,

Tiziana Ventimiglia, Esq.

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4/18/03, 2:09 pm
Michael E. Hendrickson Attorney & Counsellor at Law
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Re: Contempt of Court - Name Change

Chances are that the divorce decree merely allowed your former wife to resume her maiden name but did not order that she stop using your name. If so, her failure to comply with your wishes would not be a basis to have her found in contempt.

With regard to the Nissan, if this was to be

soley her obligation under your agreement which

was then incorporated in the court's order, her

failure to comply by making all the payments due

could be a basis to have her brought back before the court on contempt charges.

However, notwithstanding the foregoing, you cannot unilaterally decide on your own to stop paying alimony, no matter what your former spouse has done or not done, until you have been given permission by the court. Otherwise, you yourself could, quite possibly, be found in contempt of court.

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4/18/03, 4:39 pm

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