Katzburg v. Katzburg
Katzburg v. Katzburg, 410 S.C. 184, 764 S.E.2d 3 (Ct. App. 2014), is a July 2014 published opinion of the South Carolina Court of Appeals. After Mr. Katzburg was found in contempt and incarcerated for failing to comply with a New York judgment that had been registered for enforcement in the South Carolina family court, he retained me to seek reconsideration. On reconsideration we raised the issue of whether the South Carolina family court had subject matter jurisdiction to enforce a New York judgment that reflected a combined amount of past due alimony and property division. We also raised substantive and procedural defenses to the finding of contempt. The family court denied his motion and we appealed.
On appeal the Court of Appeals found that the family court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enforce a foreign money judgment and vacated the family court orders:
Although we are sympathetic to Wife’s difficulties in securing money owed by Husband, in light of the fact that Wife filed the 2008 order as a money judgment pursuant to the UEFJA [Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act] and proceeded in circuit court, we are constrained to vacate the family court’s orders. While this action was originally brought in circuit court, Husband was ultimately held in contempt in family court after Wife again registered the same New York orders in family court in 2010. We think it is clear the family court did not oust the circuit court of subject matter jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of the family court did not extend to this money judgment. We therefore hold the family court’s orders at issue are void for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
As the Court of Appeals opinion notes, the family court has the enforcement remedy of incarceration for failure to comply with alimony orders [it also has authority to incarcerate for failure to comply with child support orders and South Carolina equitable distribution orders and family court attorney fee and cost awards] while the circuit court does not:
It should be borne in mind that the enforcement of an alimony decree in this State, as in other states, differs radically from the enforcement of an ordinary money judgment. In the latter case, subject to some exceptions . . ., enforcement may be had by execution against property only, and not by attachment for contempt. But in the case of a decree for alimony a defaulting husband may be imprisoned if he fails to make payment in accordance with the terms of the decree.
This remedy of incarceration encourages litigants to attempt enforcement of orders in the family court (rather than the circuit court) whenever such enforcement is authorized. Using the family court, Ms. Katzburg was able to get Mr. Katzburg incarcerated for over five months for failing to his debt to her. She will not be able to do so again.