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When a matrimonial case is commenced, there are automatic orders, forbidding:

  • the transfer assets without the court’s or spouse’s knowledge

  • removing someone from life or health insurance

Violating these automatic orders, and others, can result in the finding of “civil contempt.”

However, after the entry of a judgement of divorce, the remedy of civil contempt does not apply to enforce the terms of the automatic orders, which remain in full force and effect while the case is pending.

In a recent case, one party learned after receiving a judgement of divorce, that while the trial was pending, and unbeknownst to her, her husband sold a warehouse in Brooklyn which was a marital asset, without her consent and without the consent of the court.

The court asserted that the automatic orders were there to preserve the status quo of property during the pendency of the action only. The court did note that although civil contempt is not the proper remedy, the plaintiff could have sought to vacate the judgment of divorce based on newly discovered evidence. Available options:

  • A civil contempt motion for the violation of the judgment of divorce;

  • A proceeding to enforce the terms of the judgment of divorce;

  • Obtaining an order directing payment of 50% of the value of the property which was sold; or

  • An amendment of the judgment of divorce.