Select Page

Penalty for Violation of Automatic Orders on Long Island

by | May 1, 2018 | divorce lawyer long island ny, marital property, News and Events

In every divorce on Long Island, when the summons and complaint are served upon the defendant there are matrimonial Automatic Orders included. The basic premise behind these orders is to maintain the status quo during the pendency of a divorce. Both parties are bound by the Automatic Orders and must refrain from transferring or encumbering real and personal property and retirement funds, the accumulation of unreasonable debt, and changes in beneficiaries on existing health and life insurance policies.

Divorce Attorney Consultation

Spencer v. Spencer

In a decision handed down on February 28, 2018, the Appellate Division, Second Department, held that violations of matrimonial actions’ Automatic Orders can be grounds for a finding of civil contempt. In Spencer v. Spencer, the Plaintiff filed for divorce from her husband on July 18, 2012. The parties jointly owned, as a marital asset, a warehouse in Brooklyn. After the Final Judgment of Divorce had been entered, the plaintiff learned that the defendant had sold the warehouse during the pendency of the action without her knowledge or consent. This was in direct contravention to the Automatic Orders. At the time the defendant sold the property, New York Statutory Law precluded either party from transferring or in any way disposing of marital assets without the written consent of the other party or order of the court. The plaintiff asserted that the defendant received $300,000 in proceeds from the sale of the warehouse.

Civil Contempt

New York Courts have stated that in order to find a party in civil contempt, a court must find:

#1. that a lawful order of the court, clearly expressing an unequivocal mandate, was in effect

#2. that the party against whom contempt is sought disobeyed the order

#3. that the party who disobeyed the order had knowledge of its terms, and

$4. that the movant was prejudiced by the offending conduct.

If a party is found to be in civil contempt by clear and convincing evidence, the court may impose as punishment a fine and/or imprisonment for up to six months or until the fine is paid.

Post-judgment Remedy

In Spencer, the court held that “where a judgment of divorce has already been entered, the remedy of civil contempt is not available for a violation of the automatic orders after the judgment of divorce has been entered.” The Court of Appeals has recognized that once a Final Judgment of Divorce has been entered, the parties’ rights regarding the issues actually litigated, and those issues that could have been litigated, have been settled. Notwithstanding, the automatic orders are temporary and exist only during the pendency of the action until “terminated, modified or amended by further order of the court or upon written agreement between the parties.”

Other Available Remedies?

The court further held that, although this particular plaintiff could not take advantage of civil contempt, she could attempt to vacate the divorce based on newly discovered evidence, file a civil contempt motion for a violation of the judgment of divorce, file a proceeding to enforce the terms of the judgment of divorce or to obtain an order directing the payment of 50% of the value of the property which was awarded to the plaintiff in the judgment of divorce, or seek an amendment of the judgment of divorce.

Have Questions About Your Long Island Divorce? We Can Help

If you have any questions regarding your divorce, or post-judgment enforcement, we can help. Contact our Long Island Divorce & Family Law firm at 631-629-2545 to set up your free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.


Call 631-923-1910 or fill in the form below

Schedule your complimentary consultation and case evaluation with our experienced attorneys today. When you call, you’ll speak to our friendly Client Services Director, who will be able to answer your general questions and set up your appointment with an attorney who specializes in your unique case.

At your meeting, your attorney will describe the many options available and determine together which is the right solution for you. By the end of this meeting we’ll all understand how we can best help you to move forward.

No Cost or Obligation

There is no cost or obligation for this initial consultation. It is simply an opportunity for us to get to know each other, answer your questions and learn if Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. is right the right law firm for you. Give us a call at 631-923-1910 or fill in the short form below to schedule your free consultation and case evaluation.

All Fields Are Required

Divorce Lawyer Attorney Long Island NY Courts Open
Divorce Lawyer Long Island New York



Google Review of divorce longisland
Anastasia R
Anastasia R
22:45 17 Dec 20
I went to see Rob for a modification for my child custody agreement to relocate, I can honestly say that working with Rob and Christine has been the best experience. I cannot recommend them enough I only wish I had seen them sooner. They are prompt with communication, and they are honest which I appreciate so much. They do not give you fake promises and they do their best to fight for what you want which they do amazingly well! You can tell they are passionate about what they do and care about their clients. A very important aspect of lawyer client relationship for me is an open line of communication, the anxiety of the unknown always gets the best of us. The fact they were always available whether it be phone call or email to answer any question was extremely comforting and exactly what I needed. I am not well versed with laws and regulation so knowing I had Rob and his partners there when I was unsure or conflicted was extremely needed and greatly appreciated.When it comes to family court it's never easy but having Rob and his partner by my side I felt extremely comfortable and he helped me have realistic expectations. Please TRUST HIM!! If you're looking for a lawyer (at least for my end from child custody/Family Court) don't look any further you will not be disappointed. I hope to never have to use them again but in the event I have to, they are going to be my forever first call.
Sam Berg
Sam Berg
15:42 16 Sep 20
I hired Robert to handle a child custody and child support matter. He was prompt and professional and was able to achieve a result that 3 prior attorneys could not. He and his staff made a stressful situation easy. I highly recommend his office.


  • I have known Robert for more than 8 eight years. Robert has represented many of my family and friends. Each and every one has raved about Robert’s professionalism and expertise. He is knowledgable, friendly and truly cares about his clients. I would not hesitate to continue to refer Robert and his firm in the future!
  • I’ve known Robert for most of my life, and feel very fortunate that I have been able to turn to a good friend for various kinds of legal advice. He is very intelligent, straight forward, and professional. Most importantly though, Robert always finds the fastest resolution, and will not waste your time or money. He is NOT in the habit of dragging things through litigation if there is no need for the added expense. I have referred a few of my friends to Robert, and they have all been more than satisfied in their experience with him. Highly recommend!!



divorce questions answered



Long Island Divorce Guide

Fill the form to download Guide

* indicates required


Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., P.C. respects your right to privacy. We will never sell your information to any third party. Follow this link to read our full privacy policy.


Child Support & Spousal Maintenance Tools
Spousal Maintenance Calculator
Child Support Calculator

Pin It on Pinterest