Johnson v. Johnson

Decision Date23 September 1969
Docket NumberNo. 43155,43155
Citation460 P.2d 954,1969 OK 142
PartiesOwen Richard JOHNSON, Plaintiff in Error, v. Betty Floyd JOHNSON, Defendant in Error.
CourtOklahoma Supreme Court

John C. Moran, Oklahoma City, for plaintiff in error.

Chiaf & Holmes, Oklahoma City, for defendant in error.

McINERNEY, Justice.

Owen Richard Johnson, as plaintiff in a divorce action, was found guilty of contempt of court for not complying with the provision in the divorce decree requiring him to make monthly payments in a specified amount to his former wife. Plaintiff appeals on the ground that failure to comply with the terms of the divorce decree is not a proper basis for contempt proceedings. The judgment granting the divorce and settling the property rights of the respective parties does not designate the sum to be paid to the defendant wife as either alimony or as a division of the property. This appeal calls for a determination of whether the payments are alimony or a division of property.

The parties entered into a lengthy and detailed property settlement contract on May 31, 1966. The plaintiff received the real property, both residence and business, and the business interests. Betty Floyd Johnson, as defendant, received $1,500.00 payable within ten days, and $30,250.00 payable in installments. Plaintiff was required to execute second mortgages on the real estate as security for payment of the award, the obligation was declared to be nondischargeable in bankruptcy, and the unpaid installments were to terminate on the death of the defendant.

A divorce on the grounds of incompatibility was granted to both parties on August 3, 1966. The court found that the parties had entered into a 'Contract for Property Settlement and Alimony', approved its terms and provisions, incorporated the attached contract by reference in the decree of divorce, and then set out in detail the provisions of the contract in the judgment. Plaintiff later failed to comply with the required monthly payments. He was cited for contempt of court and, after a hearing, was found guilty on May 17, 1968, sentenced to sixty days in jail, the sentence to be suspended 'depending on the future earnest endeavor' of compliance by plaintiff with the divorce decree. The Journal Entry of Judgment of May 17, 1968 discloses that the parties agreed that the plaintiff was in arrears in the Payments of alimony through May of 1968 in the sum of $4,671.83, for which sum judgment was rendered, together with an attorney fee of $500.00, and the sentence for contempt imposed.

The parties agree that the validity of the order sentencing the plaintiff to jail for contempt is dependent on a determination of whether the $30,250.00 awarded to defenant is a division of jointly acquired property or is alimony. The absence of definitive language in the divorce decree presents a question of construction. 12 O.S.Supp.1968, § 1289 was not operative at the time the decree was rendered. In construing a judgment the court should take into consideration the situation to which the judgment was applied and the purpose sought to be accomplished. Hicks v. Hicks, Okl.,417 P.2d 830; Lemons v....

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12 cases
  • Sommer v. Sommer
    • United States
    • Oklahoma Supreme Court
    • October 14, 1997
    ...Our litigation involves alimony in the nature of support, and such payments are enforceable via contempt proceedings. Johnson v. Johnson, 460 P.2d 954, 956 (Okla.1969). ¶23 His reliance upon authority relating to enforcing a property division by contempt does not advance his argument. Five ......
  • Hough v. Hough
    • United States
    • Oklahoma Supreme Court
    • June 8, 2004
    ...488 (holding court-decreed obligation to pay attorneys' fees is in the same category as the obligation to pay alimony); Johnson v. Johnson, 1969 OK 142, 460 P.2d 954 (holding the purpose behind the divorce decree award to wife was to provide for her support and maintenance and is therefore,......
  • Potter v. Wilson
    • United States
    • Oklahoma Supreme Court
    • April 1, 1980
    ...Ex parte Chase, 141 Okl. 75, 284 P. 294, 296 (1930).10 Stone v. Stidham, 96 Ariz. 235, 393 P.2d 923, 925 (1964); Johnson v. Johnson, Okl., 460 P.2d 954, 956 (1969).11 12 O.S.Supp.1976 § 1276; 10 O.S.1971 § 78; Ex Parte Bighorse, 178 Okl. 218, 62 P.2d 487, 489 (1936); Ex parte Lowery, 107 Ok......
  • in re Tillett, Bankruptcy No. Bk-82-001148
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Western District of Oklahoma
    • September 8, 1982
    ...have held divorce decree provision incorporating property settlement agreement cannot be enforced by contempt proceedings. Johnson v. Johnson, Okl., 460 P.2d 954; Lemons v. Lemons, 205 Okl. 485, 238 P.2d 790; Alexander v. Alexander, Okl. 526 P.2d 934. Divorce decree provision for alimony fo......
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