I have been spending winters in Mexico for the last four years. My job constructing pools is seasonal in nature, so I generally have no work each year from late November until late March. My ex knows this full well. I regularly fall behind in my alimony payments during these months and get caught up when I get my tax refund each year.
This year, I was unable to return from Mexico to begin working on April 1. The borders are still closed. As a result, I have been laid off for failure to return post COVID closure. Except I cannot collect unemployment from Mexico. Even worse, I have not been able to file my tax return, so I don’t have a refund to send my ex the usual catch-up payment yet. I emailed her and explained the whole situation, but she never responded. I knew she was mad.
When I am away, I have my mail held. The Post Office will only hold it for so long, so my sister picks up the pile once each month. She went last week and found an envelope from a sheriff so she opened it. My ex filed a contempt and there is a hearing scheduled for next week by phone.
All of my papers are at home so I don’t know how I can hire someone to help me. This is important because she is also in contempt — she hasn’t bought me out of the house yet and was supposed to do so two years ago when our youngest graduated high school. What should I do?
Filing for contempt when she is also guilty is pretty bold. It either means she is desperate for money or is mad enough to cut off her nose to spite her face.
First, your ex cannot tell the judge that you were properly served with a straight face. She knows you go to Mexico each year, she knows you are currently stuck there so you are not getting your mail thus no service — not cool. She also knows as soon as you file your tax return, you will pay your arrears, or at least as much as you can. And, perhaps most importantly, she knows she did not buy out your equity in the marital home two years ago and likely owes you far more than you owe her — that is called asking for help with unclean hands.
You should call in to the hearing and tell the judge you need a continuance because you do not believe you were properly served but, in any event, you are unable to retain counsel until you are able to return to Massachusetts to access your records. Tell the judge you think you were not properly served and explain why. Finally, tell the judge she owes you more than you owe her, so you need time to also file a counterclaim for contempt — that should get you the requested delay.