My wife and I signed a legal separation agreement stating I would pay her alimony and child support. But while we were legally separated, we ended up moving back in together, shared bills, traveled together, etc.
During this time I did not pay the support that was outlined in the agreement because we were living together. Now that we have moved out again she was able to get a contempt of court order against me for failing to pay support during that time period.
Is our legal separation agreement binding? How can I prove that even though I did not pay the support it was because we were living together?
Legal separation agreements are usually binding and can vary widely, but you may have a few options to help you. Generally, when you sign a legal separation agreement, you are bound to its terms until you terminate the agreement through the court, or file for divorce. The legal separation agreement is a type of contract, and the court will not let you out of your contract with your wife lightly.
Your agreement could have a specified period of time that the separation will last, or state law may specify a specific time limit, i.e., one year on legal separations. Your agreement also could have specified that your legal separation would terminate upon reconciliation of your relationship.
Make sure you read your agreement thoroughly to determine if there is any such provision in your separation agreement. As for fighting the Contempt Order, you will probably need some sort of strategy that shows the agreement had either 1) been terminated or 2) has been fulfilled in an alternate way.
You could argue that, as you were living in the marital residence and supporting your wife and child(ren), you were effectively paying support and alimony through maintaining the marital residence and living expenses of your family.
This may or may not work, depending on the child support and alimony laws in your jurisdiction. If this is a possibility in your jurisdiction, you will need proof of payment of these types of expenses.
You could also argue that you implicitly terminated the legal separation agreement by reconciling your marriage. Again, this depends heavily on what is allowed by the court in your jurisdiction. I strongly recommend that you consult an attorney in your area who will be able to help you formulate a case against this contempt order. When you contact possible attorneys to represent you, be sure to ask if they have experience handling legal separation agreements.
Cordell & Cordell has divorce attorneys located nationwide.
Leslie Lorenzano is a Staff Attorney in the Indianapolis, Indiana office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Lorenzano is licensed in the state of Indiana and the U.S. District Court Sothern District of Indiana. Ms. Lorenzano received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Purdue University, and her Juris Doctor from the University of Arizona – James E. Rogers College of Law.