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Pez v. Ysla

July 15, 1999

DANIEL LóPEZ, APPELLANT
v.
ELIZABETH YSLA, APPELLEE.



Before Terry, Steadman and Ruiz, Associate Judges.

Notice: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the Atlantic and Maryland Reporters. Users are requested to notify the Clerk of the Court of any formal errors so that corrections may be made before the bound volumes go to press.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

(Hon. Henry F. Greene, Trial Judge)

Argued April 29, 1999

Ruiz, Associate Judge: This appeal arises from the trial court's dismissal of appellant Daniel López's motion to reduce child support and its order holding López in civil contempt for failure to pay child support. López claims that the trial court abused its discretion in dismissing his motion and in holding him in contempt. After a review of the record, we reverse the trial court's dismissal of López's motion to reduce child support and remand for a hearing to determine whether López did in fact make child support payments to Barbara Kolb between July 1994 and June 1995. As for the civil contempt order, because there is no certified transcript of the complete proceedings before Judge Greene on March 1, 1996, we are unable to review the order on the present record. *fn1 We, therefore, instruct the parties to pursue the preparation of a statement of proceedings and evidence. See D.C. App. R. 10 (d) (1999). *fn2 We note, however, that if the unofficial portion of the transcript provided by Ysla as an appendix to her brief on appeal is an accurate representation of the March 1, 1996 proceedings, we discern no abuse of discretion in the trial court's decision to hold López in civil contempt for failure to pay child support for the period of June 1995 to February 1996.

I.

On August 13, 1993, Daniel López was ordered to pay $110 bi-weekly in child support to Elizabeth Ysla for the maintenance of their daughter. *fn3 López filed a motion to reduce child support on April 25, 1994, arguing that he was entitled to a downward adjustment in his child support payments to Ysla based on the child support he paid to Barbara Kolb, the mother of his three older children. After a modification hearing on July 7, 1994, the trial court denied his motion on the ground that López had failed to show a consistent child support payment record. In a written order dated July 14, 1994, the court indicated the conditions under which López might file another modification motion, stating:

"As the Court indicated at the July 7 hearing, should plaintiff establish a consistent record of child support payments to Ms. Kolb by making such payments into the Court Registry for at least five months, he could file another motion seeking a reduction for child support paid to the Kolb children, but in the absence of such a record, this Court would be unwilling to entertain another motion regarding this issue." *fn4

López did not appeal from the trial court's denial of his first motion to reduce child support payments.

Two weeks later, López filed a second motion to reduce child support, requesting a hearing on or about January 1, 1995 and asking that the court make any reduction retroactive to the July 29, 1994 filing date. *fn5 A year and a half later, on February 14, 1996, the trial court summarily denied the motion on the ground that it was a "frivolous" attempt to relitigate the same issue that had been presented in his first motion to reduce child support and denied by the court. The court further noted that it discredited López's claim that he had permission to refile his motion before he had established a consistent payment record. *fn6

On December 7, 1995, Ysla filed, inter alia, a motion to hold López in contempt for failure to pay child support. *fn7 At the February 14, 1996 hearing, after denying appellant's second motion to reduce child support, the trial court then considered the contempt motion, continuing the hearing to March 1, 1996. After determining that López was in arrears on his child support obligations in the amount of $2,310 and that appellant had "willfully failed to pay any child support since June 12, 1995, notwithstanding his financial ability to do so," the trial court held López in contempt of court, sentenced him to sixty days in prison, and stayed the sentence upon condition that he make bi-weekly $135 payments. *fn8

López appeals from the denial of his second motion to reduce support and from the order holding him in contempt of court for failure to pay child support.

II.

1. Motion to reduce child ...


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