Criminal Contempt and Attorney’s Fees

Pity poor Mr. Gladden, doomed to litigate without end over the alimony he should have paid his ex-wife. And pity even more his ex-wife Mrs. Gladden, who is seemingly locked in with him in their constant trips to the courthouse. You can read all about their lengthy struggle at Gladden v. Gladden, Case No. 2040467 (Ala. Civ. App. December 9, 2005.

The Appeals Court affirmed the trial court’s harsh treatment of Mr. Gladden after repeated attempts to enforce his duty to pay alimony. The one aspect of the trial court’s ruling that the Appeals Court reversed was its award of an attorney’s fee to the wife. Because the trial court opted to use criminal contempt, the Appeals Court stated that the award of an attorney’s fee was improper. In doing so, it quoted Ex parte Collins, 860 So. 2d 1259 (Ala. 2003): “In a criminal-contempt action, ‘the award of attorney’s fees is not proper’ and that part of the trial court’s order purporting to award an attorney fee ‘must be considered as mere surplusage and severed from the judgment decree.'”

One comment

  1. collins says:

    The Collins in the above case regarding contempt was my case – I am the ex-wife.
    my ex-husband is a lawyer, he was the one found in criminal contempt. I have yet to
    figure out the reasoning in not allowing attorney fees for criminal contempt- because by
    its very nature it is worse than civil contempt?

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