For the Plaintiff Mayerson Abramowitz & Kahn, LLP.
For the Defendant Cohen Clair Lans Greifer & Thorpe LLP.
Matthew F. Cooper, J.
Papers and exhibits considered in review of this Order to Show Cause:
Defendant's Order to Show Cause....1
Defendant's Memorandum of Law....2
Plaintiff's Affidavit in Opposition....3
Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law.....4
Defendant's Reply Memorandum of Law..6
In this matrimonial proceeding, defendant-wife seeks to have the court use its civil contempt powers to punish plaintiff-husband for a violation of orders that are automatically triggered by the commencement of an action for divorce. The automatic orders, which became part of New York State divorce procedure in 2009 with the enactment of Domestic Relations Law (DRL) section 236(B)(2)(b) and the promulgation of 22 New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR) 202.16-a, prohibit the unauthorized transfer of marital assets during the pendency of the case.
Here, there is little question that plaintiff violated the automatic orders by using close to $4 million in marital funds to purchase a house in Connecticut after he started this proceeding. As will be explained, the court finds that although civil contempt is an available remedy when a party transfers assets in violation of the automatic orders, it is not an appropriate remedy on these facts.
Plaintiff commenced this divorce action on November 3, 2010, by filing a summons with notice. On or about December 3, 2010, defendant was served with the summons. Included with the summons was the "Notice Re: Automatic Orders, " which recites verbatim the language of the automatic orders as provided in DRL § 236(B)(2)(b) and 22 NYCRR 202.16-a and sets forth their applicability to both parties. The parties exchanged Net Worth Statements on March 10, 2011. Plaintiff's Net Worth Statement was sworn to on February 11, 2011, but reflected assets as they existed on November 1, 2010, two days before the commencement date of the action. From plaintiff's Net Worth Statement and from his affidavit in opposition to defendant's ...