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Mother's actions support contempt finding

April 17, 2012

The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld finding a mother in contempt of court for not dismissing a protective order against her ex-husband as required by their dissolution decree. The judges also affirmed the award of compensatory damages and attorney fees to the father, but reversed a 10-day sentence imposed for future violations.

In Barbara (Rosario) Bessolo v. William I. Rosario, No. 29A02-1108-DR-789, Barbara Bessolo and William Rosario, who have a young daughter, divorced Dec. 1, 2010. As part of their mediated settlement agreement, Bessolo was to dismiss a protective order she had against Rosario by Nov. 12, although the terms of the agreement weren’t binding until it was approved by the court. Even after the decree was approved in December, Bessolo didn’t dismiss the protective order.

An incident on Dec. 5, 2010, led to Bessolo calling the police on Rosario and telling officers she had a protective order against him. Rosario was arrested, spent 20 hours in jail and had to pay $2,500 to expunge the arrest from his record. She filed for the protective order to be dismissed two days later.

Rosario then filed a motion to show cause requesting Bessolo be held in contempt for her actions. The trial court ordered Bessolo to pay $10,000 in compensatory damages, $10,000 in attorney fees, and imposed the suspended jail sentence. She appealed, but the COA affirmed.

Although the divorce wasn’t approved until Dec. 1, instead of Nov. 12 as the agreement originally stated, Bessolo still had to file to dismiss the protective order once the settlement was approved, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. The judges upheld the monetary damages and attorney fees imposed, finding the experience was a humiliating one for Rosario. He was handcuffed in front of his young daughter in a public parking lot and had to miss a day of work. The COA reversed the imposition of the suspended jail sentence because it does not coerce current or future compliance with a specific court order. The judges also denied Rosario’s request for appellate attorney fees.  
 

 

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