Did You Know:…Contempt of Court

Today (02/05/13), the Inquisitr (www.inquisitr.com) reported via NBC Miami that a Miami teen (18 yrs old), who was arrested for possession of Xanax and who was standing in front of the Judge for sentencing, had the following exchange with the Judge:
[Court inquires as to the teen’s financial status for purposes of setting bond]
Teen:  laughs at the Courts’ inquiry…
Court: “It’s not a joke…we’re not in a club right now….be serious about it.”
…after a few more exchanges, the Judge set bond at $5,000.
Teen:  (sarcastically and while exiting)  “Adios!”
Court: Come back here…[bond is now set at] $10,000.
Teen: (raising her middle finger at the Judge) told the Judge to “f**k himself”
Courts response?….The court found her in criminal contempt of court and ordered her to spend 30 days in prison for her contemptuous act.

In Wisconsin, sec. 785.01(1) defines “contempt of court” as “intentional: (a) Misconduct in the presence of the court which interferes with a court proceeding or with the administration of justice, or which impairs the respect due the court; (b) Disobedience, resistance or obstruction of the authority, process or order of the court; (bm) Violation of any provision of s. 767.117(1) [See my Feb. 2, 2013 Blog post] regarding s. 767.117(1) concerning Prohibited Acts During Pendency of (Divorce) Action]; (c) Refusal as a witness to appear, be sworn or answer a question; or (d) Refusal to produce a record, document or other object.”  Sec. 785.01(2) defines “Punitive sanction” as “a sanction imposed to punish a past contempt of court for the purpose of upholding the authority of the court,” while sec. 785.01(3) defines “Remedial sanction” as “a sanction imposed for the purpose of terminating a continuing contempt of court.”  Further, sec. 785.02 gives “A court of record” the power to “impose a remedial or punitive sanction for contempt of court.”

If the above exchange had happened in Wisconsin, Sec. 785.03(2), states that “The judge presiding in an action or proceeding may impose a punitive sanction upon a person who commits a contempt of court (see definition) in the actual presence of the court.  The judge shall impose the punitive sanction immediately after the contempt of court and only for the purpose of preserving order in the court and protecting the authority and dignity of the court.”

It should go without saying – that bringing intentional disrespect (as this young lady did) into the courtroom presided over by any judge or court commissioner is contemptuous by its very nature and must be avoided, and that openly and intentionally disrespecting, insulting, disobeying, resisting or obstructing any judge or court commissioner is strictly unacceptable – but these statutes reinforce the absolute necessity of maintaining one’s composure while in court.  Contemptuous actions will not only bring either remedial or punitive sanctions upon the person committing the contempt of court (depending on the circumstance) it will most likely and immediately lead to a loss of credibility of that person in the courtroom at that time and in the future.  If you have questions concerning this topic, including the difference between remedial and punitive sanctions, please contact me at 715-365-9008.

Did You Know:…Divorce: Child Custody and Placement

Questions are often presented to me concerning the rights and obligations of a  parent who is a Wisconsin resident and who is about to file for divorce or who has already filed for divorce.  A common question under these circumstances, offered in various forms, amounts to this:  Can I move out of town with my kid(s) and go to (establish residence) elsewhere with the kids (but without my spouse and without his/her permission)?***

Wis. Stats. sec. 767.117(1), entitled “Prohibited acts during pendency of action,” states that: “In an action affecting the family, the petitioner upon filing the petition, the joint petitioners upon filing the joint petition and the respondent upon service of the petition are prohibited from…(c) without the consent of the other party or any order of the court, establishing a residence with a minor child of the parties outside the state or more than 150 miles from the residence of the other party within the state, removing a minor child of the parties from the state for more than 90 consecutive days, or concealing a minor child of the parties from the other party.”  This prohibition continues in “until the action is dismissed, until a final judgment in the action is entered, or until the court orders otherwise.

The facts and circumstances of each and every action for divorce is different from the next, especially when they involve children.  Therefore, it is strongly suggested that spouses that are either contemplating divorce or who have filed or been served in a new divorce action contact an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible to discuss the meaning and interpretation of this statute (what it means to the court in your specific set of circumstances) and ask questions of your attorney. *** PLEASE NOTE:  The law is different on this issue when a court has already granted “periods of physical placement to more than one parent” in the form of an Order of the Court.  Call me at 715-365-9008 before you act, and I will be happy to talk with you and answer your questions on these issues.


Did You Know: …Divorce: Child Support: Differences bet. Arrears -vs- Past Support

Past (Child) Support:  a court-ordered obligation for a period of time that child support would have been owed prior to the establishment of the current child support order; Balances that are owed on past support do not accrue interest and are not considered “arrears” debts.  For example: John and Jane Doe are no longer living together.  John asks the Oneida County Child Support Agency to establish child support because Jane has left the house in July of 2012.  The Child Support Agency then schedules the matter for a hearing, having both parties served with the motion in August of 2012, with the hearing date in October of 2012.  During the October 2012 hearing date, the court orders a child support obligation for Jane starting 10/01/2012 at $200 per month.  The court then orders past child support for August and September because Jane Doe should have supported the children for those months as well…If the court does not order a payment amount on the $400 owed, the debt sits there until an order is entered on it, whether administratively or by an new order of the court.  If there is a repayment order on the “past support,” and if the payer does not make her payments, then that ordered amount becomes arrears and is subject to interest charges.

Arrears: is the accumulation of the current obligation amount not being paid by the payer.  If Jane Doe does not make her $200 October child support payment or her $50 past support payment, the Child Support Agency will roll-it-over into the “arrears” category…she would then owe $250 in arrears as of November 1st…if she did not make her November payments as well, then her arrears would be $500 as of December 1st PLUS (+) interest of 1% per month.  Jane Doe’s past support balance would be reduced by $100 and only the month  amount would roll over as arrears owed.


…Wisconsin Judicare, Inc., provides a service called the “Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) to assist low and moderate income families with tax controversies?

Yes; Wisconsin Judicare, Inc., a non-profit corporation, understands that the majority of taxpayers want to comply with tax laws, but may need help from tax professionals.  If you are a low income taxpayer*** who needs assistance in resolving tax disputes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and you cannot afford representation, or if you speak English as a second language and need help understanding your taxpayer rights and responsibilities, you may qualify for help from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) that provides free or nominal costs assistance.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics represent low income taxpayers before the IRS and assist taxpayers in audits, appeals and collection disputes.  LITCs can also help taxpayers respond to IRS notices and correct account problems.

Although Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics receive partial funding from the IRS, LITCs, their employees, and their volunteers are completely independent of the federal government.  These clinics are operated by nonprofit organizations or academic institutions.  This is not a recommendation by the IRS that you retain the services of a LITC or other similar organization to represent you before the IRS.  Each clinic independently decides if you meet the income eligibility guidelines and other criteria before it agrees to represent and assist you.

Wisconsin Judicare’s Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic may be able to help with the following:

  • Claiming Earned Income Tax Credits\
  • Audits/Exams
  • Innocent Spouse Declarations
  • Offers-in-Compromise
  • Responding to Letters from the IRS

The attorneys, for the most part, will not prepare tax returns.

 ELIGIBILITY ~ If you are a low-income taxpayer who cannot afford professional tax assistance during audits of your federal income tax return, you may qualify for help via Judicare’s Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic.  Using poverty guidelines published annually by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), each Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) decides if you meet the income eligibility guidelines and other criteria before it agrees to assist and/or represent you.  A controversy clinic receiving federal funding must have at least 90% of the taxpayers served with incomes that do not exceed 250% of the poverty guidelines.

BEFORE CALLING:  Have the following materials ready when contacting the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic for the first time.  Questions may be answered more easily if these items are in your possession during your contact with the LITC:

  1. Any tax bills, letters from the IRS;
  2. Copies of letters written to the IRS;
  3. Your Social Security Number;
  4. Your current income.

Each year, changes in tax laws and forms add to the complexity of working with the IRS.  Many individuals need to file additional forms in order to get  Earned Income Credit and child tax credits due.

***For more information, including eligibility requirements, you may contact Wisconsin Judicare, Inc., using any of the following means: www.judicare.org OR  1-800-472-1638.

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