NYLJ: If ‘Less Drastic’ Means Available, Spouse Cannot Seek Contempt to Cure Unpaid Support

Family Court, Albany County
Family Law

Family Court cannot be granted any jurisdictional authority that is not available to Supreme Court because Supreme Court has plenary jurisdictional over all causes of action (Constitution, Article 6 §7; Kagen v. Kagen, 21 NY2d 532). Where two statutory schemes cover the same topic, the less restrictive scheme must govern. The statutes under review are remedial in nature and the law requires that “remedial statutes [must be] liberally construed to carry out the reforms intended and to promote justice” (Statutes §321). The law also requires that “the court should adopt a statutory construction which will produce equal results and avoid unjust discrimination” (Statutes §147). Based on these considerations, in Family Court, before a spouse may be held in contempt for the failure to pay maintenance, there must be a showing that the CPLR judgment collection provisions would be ineffectual.

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