State is Nevada.
Divorce occurred May 2001. Monthly spousal support (MSS) was set forth in the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) for 11.5 years or 138 months, ending November 2012. Significant asset shift occurred as well. We had two homes to divide in addition to much personal property and some investments. There was an "equalizing" promissory note (in favor of my ex) which I paid off by 2003 by refinancing the home that I kept. Three kids were involved, with me being responsible to pay for education, living costs, cars, insurance, etc. I did all of this, and even exceeded what was stipulated. I was generous when I had the funds to do so, but my overall financial situation has deteriorated steadily since 2007 so my generosity got forcibly reigned in along the way.
I paid stipulated amount timely until August 2010, or for the first 112 months. In August 2010, I could no longer afford the total amount of MSS, and my ex-spouse and I did a MSA addendum #1 (notarized and no attorneys involved) to lower the monthly amount I would remit to $500. We did not lower the obligated amount, so each monthly payment was "short". The amount of "shortage" accumulated, with the intention that when I sold my house, I would catch up on back amounts owed. I have not been regularly employed since December 2005, though I spend effort to change this.
My house did not sell as hoped and in November 2012 (the date which would have been the end date for MSS had I made all prior MSS payments in total) I stopped making MSS payments ($500/month) as I could not afford it. It was a convenient point to stop as well, as the previously thought to be stop date had arrived. We did a MSA addendum #2 (again notarized and no attorneys involved) to set forth the amount outstanding (shortage of payments from August 2010 to November 2012). Interest at 3% on the outstanding amount was to accrue starting November 2012 until paid, with the expectation that I would pay all sums due when my house sold. In addendum #2 we stated that the total would be due when my house sold or by November 2013, whichever occurred first. My house did not sell.
In early November 2013, my ex-spouse, now using an attorney, began approaching me in a formal and legal way. My ex-spouse has not communicated with me directly for almost one year. We last had a somewhat heated discussion May 2013. Her "legal move" commenced in early November 2013 surprised me as we had worked out difficulties before, but apparently she has a different agenda in mind now. With no warning to me, no phone call, no email, no letter ..... a motion to show cause was filed with the court in early November 2013, but with no "request for submission" attached, so the court didn't advance that to reviewing it and getting involved at that point. I was told by the court clerk that the judge does not review any submissions without a "request for submission" attached to the filing. I perceived this first move as a threat to me hoping to bring me to the negotiation table to resolve matters. In late November 2013, attorney communicated (by mail) a settlement arrangement (prepped by my ex) that was unacceptable or undoable. At the end of December I sent my ex a memo outlining what I could do (not much) and reiterating that I had no funds to pay her, but that I would pay what was owed when my house sells. I've not received any response from my ex. The only communication I receive is from the attorney.
I believe her recent actions are rooted in some bitterness. In addition to the phone call last May, I got remarried in August 2013. Another interesting comment I picked up was from my youngest daughter who told me in December 2013 that "mom just wants to find out what is going on without talking with you". My daughter is 24 and living in mom's house at this time.
Now, in March 2014, a court ordered hearing has been set for early April directing me to appear and "show cause" ..... presumably why I should not be held in contempt.
I cannot afford an attorney ($300/hour). I must appear in court when requested (or ask for delay?). Although the attorney's paperwork seems to portray me as a deadbeat, my track record indicates otherwise. At this point, I've not attempted to ask the court for relief on spousal support due to hardship, and it may be too late for that anyway. It looks to me like the addendums changed the nature of what was owed from MSS to a promissory note of sorts, with some minor interest accruing, but the date for that to come to an end was November 2013, and without my house selling, I have no way to pay the outstanding amount.
I would appreciate any constructive comments or suggestions about my situation. Questions are welcome if more info is needed. I can represent myself politely in court, and I am reasonably good at figuring what to do "on the fly". I've dealt a lot in my professional life with attorneys and legal matters, but in this legal arena I'm sure there are aspects that could surprise me, and I need to avoid that.
Thanks for reading and considering the above.
1 Answer from Attorneys
I understand your issues with not wanting to hire a lawyer, however, it is extremely necessary in this situation. First off, the filing should have been a Motion for an Order to Show Cause, which means that you have time to file the necessary Opposition. So hopefully you have done this in a timely manner, it would be in the Opposition that you can challenge all that said by showing proof of payments, the addendums, and proof of your drop in income. Additionally, you would want to file a countermotion to lower the amount of support in the event you cannot pay. Some attorneys will appear in an Unbundled Capacity (for this time only for a flat fee that it takes to cover the hearing) in turn they will assist you with the next step in the proceedings. For a person to be held in contempt it requires a clear and unambiguous order, which places the parties on notice as to what is required of them. Usually, the court requires an evidentiary proceeding on the facts in order to determine if a litigant should be held in contempt. However, I have seen other judges hold parties in contempt with no evidentiary proceeding. SEEK LEGAL COUNSEL, and don't walk into court without one.