Thompson v. Gerlach (North Carolina 2017)

No. COA16-770 (N.C. Ct. App. 2017)
August 2017

In order to find a parent in contempt for failure to pay support, the court must find evidence of their ability to pay and willful failure to do so. Also, the order must contain specific purge conditions and date. In this case, the trial court found the father in contempt for failure to pay support and ordered father to make a monthly payment towards the child support arrears until the arrears were paid in full. The father appealed, arguing that he had no ability to pay. The appellate court found sufficient evidence of ability to pay in the record including his financial affidavit, expenses on his bank statement that were not for the benefit of the children, and numerous ATM withdrawals. The order required a monthly arrears payment, which the appellate court found a sufficiently specific purge condition. The appellate court found that while the order did not give a specific purge date, it was clear the contempt would be purged once the arrearage was satisfied.