Brody v. Brody
For the court to properly find a party in contempt, that party's noncompliance with the court's order must be willful. The plaintiff, Felicia Pierot Brody and the defendant, Cary Brody, were married in 2000 when the defendant's net worth was approximately $46 million and the plaintiff's net worth was approximately $29 million. The plaintiff was a securities trader until their first child was born in 2002. She became unhappy with the defendant's alleged behavior—excessive spending, drinking, verbal abuse and sexual aggression towards her. By a public announcement, she learned the Securities and Exchange Commission was prosecuting the defendant and his hedge fund, Colonial Fund LLC. A $1,330,054.32 judgment entered against him. The trial court dissolved the parties' marriage and ordered, inter alia, the defendant to pay the plaintiff $2,500,000 in lump sum alimony in installments, child support of $7500 per month, $15,000 in health care expenses and $250,000 from certain proceeds. A restraint order entered against the defendant regarding assets. The Appellate Court upheld the dissolution and prior contempt judgments. On Dec. 9, 2011, the defendant was found in contempt for failing to pay $2 million in alimony, health care expenses and $175,000 of the proceeds. On March 5, 2012, he was found in contempt for failing to pay child support. The defendant appealed these judgments. The Appellate Court reversed the March 5, 2012 judgment and, otherwise, affirmed. For the 2011 contempt finding, the defendant unpersuasively claimed that his failure to make the required payments was not willful, he simply was unable to comply with the court's orders. His argument ignored the trial court's undisputed factual finding that the defendant chose to prioritize his own nonessential expenses over the payments owed to the plaintiff. The finding of willfulness was supported by the record. But, on March 5, 2012, the trial court did not address the question of the defendant's willfulness in finding him in contempt for failing to pay child support. The court stated that "[a]nybody who pays a rent of [$7000] a month and a [$1400] lease payment on a car with loaned money when you have the obligations that you do is clearly not seeing the world in a reasonable way." Without the requisite finding on willfulness, the court abused its discretion in granting the contempt motion.