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All opinions are subject to modification and technical correction prior to official publication in the North Carolina Reports and North Carolina Court of Appeals Reports. In the event of discrepancies between the electronic version of an opinion and the print version appearing in the North Carolina Reports and North Carolina Court of Appeals Reports, the latest print version is to be considered authoritative.
NORTH CAROLINA COURT OF APPEALS
Filed: 06 November 2007
ROBERT LEMOYNE WATSON, JR.
v. Alamance County
No. 03 CVD 2373
GAYLE POWELL WATSON
Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 20 June 2006 by
Judge G. Wayne Abernathy in Alamance County District Court. Heard
in the Court of Appeals 23 August 2007.
Vernon, Vernon, Wooten, Brown, Andrews & Garrett, P.A., by
Benjamin D. Overby and Wiley P. Wooten, for plaintiff-
Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP, by K. Edward Greene and
Adrienne E. Allison, for defendant-appellant.
When defendant is held in civil contempt of court, the
constitutional notice requirements applicable to criminal contempt
proceedings are not implicated. When defendant is served with a
copy of the motion for an order to show cause, which states the
grounds for the alleged civil contempt, as well as the show cause
order referencing the motion, there is adequate notice of the
nature of the contempt proceedings. When the parties' consent
order provided that defendant is to assume financial
responsibility for credit card debt, and defendant has the present
means and ability to comply, it is not error for the court to holddefendant in contempt of court for failing to comply with the
consent order as it related to the credit card accounts, and to
order defendant to pay off the debt as a condition of purging
herself of contempt. When defendant refused to execute forms
requested by the Internal Revenue Service in order to file amended
tax returns, as required under the parties' consent order, it is
not error for the court to order defendant to sign these forms.
While it was appropriate for the court to order the payment of
attorneys' fees in a contempt proceeding for failure to comply with
an equitable distribution consent order, the court erred in
assessing expert witness fees against defendant.
I. Factual Background
Robert Lemoyne Watson (plaintiff) filed suit against his wife,
Gayle Powell Watson (defendant), in October 2003 seeking equitable
distribution of the parties' marital property. The parties entered
into a consent order, which was filed 17 June 2005. The consent
order included the following pertinent provisions:
[N]o later than August 1, 2005, the
Defendant will deliver to Mike Minikus,
CPA, all tax-related materials which she
and/or Mr. Minikus considers necessary to
the preparation of her 2001, 2002 and
2003 tax returns and upon the preparation
of joint returns for the parties for
2001, 2002 and 2003 by Mr. Minikus,
Defendant will execute the same, provided
it is lawful for her to do so.
. . .
Defendant hereby assumes all financial
responsibility on all obligations listed
on Schedule B attached hereto, and agrees
to indemnify the Plaintiff and hold him
harmless for any liability thereon. . .
Upon entry of this Order each party will
promptly undertake to transfer to their
name individually the balance owed on
each debt assumed by the said party per
Schedules B and C. Neither party will
incur any obligation on behalf of the
other party or attempt to pledge the
Schedule B included certain credit card debts owed to MBNA,
CitiFinancial, and Chase.
On 27 July 2005, plaintiff filed a motion for contempt. On 27
July 2005, the trial court entered an order requiring defendant to
appear and show cause on 22 August 2005 why she should not be held
in contempt of court for failing to abide by the terms of the
consent order. On 25 August 2005, the court continued the matter
upon defendant's motion based upon the withdrawal of defendant's
counsel from the case, and to allow defendant time to deliver
documents required by paragraph 3 of the consent order. Arising
out of the 30 August 2005 hearing, the court entered an order
finding that defendant had failed to comply with certain terms of
the consent order and that she was in contempt of court.
Defendant was ordered incarcerated in the common jail of
Alamance County until she complied with the terms of the consent
order. The incarceration was stayed upon the following conditions:
1) By 2 October 2005 defendant take action
required to remove plaintiff from debts
assigned to defendant under the consent
2) Send a copy of the consent order to each
major credit reporting agency with a
letter acknowledging her responsibility
for the debts ;
3) Deliver to plaintiff's accountant all
documentation for her 2002 and 2003 tax
4) Appear before the court on 3 October 2005
and bring with her completed 2002 and
2003 separate income tax returns, as well
as a joint tax return for 2001, and any
evidence that she contends that it would
be unlawful for her to sign a joint
5) Appear before that court on 17 October
2005 with completed 2002 and 2003 joint
income tax returns prepared by
plaintiff's accountant. If she contends
that the execution of these returns is
unlawful, she is to produce evidence of
such, and also present what she intends
would be lawful returns for her to sign .
On 14 October 2005, defendant failed to appear before the
court and had failed to comply with other conditions that stayed
her incarceration. The court found defendant to be in criminal
contempt for violating the court's prior orders. Defendant was
directed to appear before the court on 17 October 2005.
On 17 October 2005, defendant, in open court, executed the
2001 joint tax return. The remaining matters could not be reached
and were continued until 31 October 2005. Defendant went out of
state on 31 October 2005 and the matter was continued to 7 November
On 7 November 2005, defendant did not appear in court. Her
attorney advised the court that he had received a fax that morning
discharging him from further representation. Defendant's counsel
was allowed to withdraw. The trial court entered another show
cause order directing defendant to appear on 28 November 2005 to
show cause why she should not be punished for contempt for failureto sign the 2002 and 2003 joint tax returns and failing to comply
with the provisions of the consent order as to the debts assigned
to her. The court further ordered that if defendant failed to
appear on 28 November 2005 she was to be arrested. Defendant was
arrested and released from custody on 12 December 2005.
On 6 April 2006, plaintiff filed a motion alleging that
although defendant had executed the 2001, 2002 and 2003 joint
returns, that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requested that
additional documents be filed in conjunction with the amended
returns, and that defendant refused to sign the documents. The
motion further asserted that the forms had to be filed immediately
because of a statute of limitations issue. In addition, plaintiff
alleged that defendant had refused to pay off the credit card
debts. The motion sought a show cause order from the court, which
was issued on 6 April 2006, setting a hearing for 8 May 2006.
The 8 May 2006 hearing was continued based upon a note from
defendant's physician until 5 June 2006. On that date, a hearing
was conducted, with defendant appearing pro se. The trial court
entered an order concluding that defendant was in contempt of court
and once again ordering defendant's incarceration in the Alamance
County jail. Defendant could purge herself of contempt by doing
1) Signing form 1040X as to the 2001, 2002
and 2003 joint tax returns by 9 June
2) Paying to accountant Michael J. Minikus
the sum of $11,724.00 as an expert
witness fee by 5 September 2006;
3) Paying attorney's fees to plaintiff's
counsel in the amount of $11,235.53 by 5
4) Paying in full the two credit card debts
by 5 September 2006.
From this order, defendant appeals.
II. Notice of Contempt Proceedings
In defendant's first argument, she contends that the court
erred in not giving her due notice of whether the contempt
proceedings against her were civil or criminal in nature. We
Contempt of court may be civil or criminal in nature. Bishop
v. Bishop, 90 N.C. App. 499, 503, 369 S.E.2d 106, 108 (1988). A
major factor in determining whether contempt is criminal or civil
is the purpose for which the power is exercised. Id. (quoting
O'Briant v. O'Briant, 313 N.C. 432, 434, 329 S.E.2d 370, 372
Criminal contempt is imposed in order to preserve the court's
authority and to punish disobedience of its orders. O'Briant, 313
N.C. at 434, 329 S.E.2d at 372. Criminal contempt is a crime, and
constitutional safeguards are triggered accordingly. Id. at 435,
329 S.E.2d at 373. On the other hand, when the court seeks to
compel obedience with court orders, and a party may avoid the
contempt sentence or fine by performing the acts required in the
court order, the contempt is best characterized as civil. Bishop,
90 N.C. App at 504, 369 S.E.2d at 109; O'Briant, 313 N.C. at 434,
329 S.E.2d at 372. A civil contempt proceeding does not command
the procedural and evidentiary safeguards that are required bycriminal contempt proceedings. Hartsell v. Hartsell, 99 N.C. App.
380, 388, 393 S.E.2d 570, 575 (1990) (citing Bishop, 90 N.C. App.
at 505-06, 369 S.E.2d at 109-10).
Both parties agree that the nature of the contempt proceedings
in this case was civil. The 20 June 2006 order provided that the
defendant is to be incarcerated until such time as she complies
with the 16 June 2005 consent order. (emphasis added). The order
further articulated specific actions required by defendant to avoid
being held in contempt.
Although defendant admits that the trial court adjudicated her
in civil contempt, she argues that she nonetheless should have been
granted the full protections of a criminal contempt proceeding,
since the notice of hearing did not clearly state whether the
proceedings were criminal or civil. However, as acknowledged in
plaintiff's brief , this Court in Hartsell rejected this argument.
Hartsell, 99 N.C. App. at 386-89, 393 S.E.2d at 574-76. This Court
is bound by its own decisions on an issue, even if the issue was
decided in a different case, unless it has been overturned by a
higher court. In re Civil Penalty, 324 N.C. 373, 383-84, 379
S.E.2d 30, 36-7 (1989). Hartsell constitutes binding precedent
upon this Court, and we hold that because the contempt proceedings
were clearly civil in nature, and since no relief of a punitive
nature was ordered, defendant was not entitled to the procedural
and evidentiary safeguards required in a criminal contempt
proceeding. Defendant had adequate notice of the proceedings, and
this assignment of error is without merit.
III. Notice of Nature of Contempt Proceedings
In defendant's second argument, she contends that, even if her
notice of the contempt proceeding was proper, the trial court's
order as it pertains to the Chase and MBNA credit cards should be
vacated because she did not have due notice that the scope of the
hearing would encompass issues related to those credit cards. We
N.C. Gen. Stat. . 5A-23(a)(1) (2005) governs civil contempt
proceedings and provides that:
Proceedings for civil contempt may be
initiated by motion of an aggrieved party
giving notice to the alleged contemnor to
appear before the court for a hearing on
whether the alleged contemnor should be held
in civil contempt.
The statute further requires a copy of the motion and notice
to be served on the alleged contemnor at least five days before the
hearing. Id. The party alleging civil contempt must include a
sworn statement with the motion setting forth the reasons why the
alleged contemnor should be held in civil contempt. Id.
The record reveals that plaintiff's verified motion for an
order to show cause filed 6 April 2006 alleged that the Defendant
has failed and refused to pay off the credit cards as ordered by
the Court which failure has adversely affected the Plaintiff and
his credit. In its 6 April 2006 order to show cause, the court
specifically referenced plaintiff's motion. Defendant was properly
served with both the motion and the court's order. Read together,
these documents constitute adequate notice to defendant that herinaction pertaining to the credit cards was alleged as a basis for
Furthermore, defendant did not object to the presentation of
evidence on this issue at the contempt hearing. On the contrary,
defendant presented evidence relating to the credit card debt,
including offering exhibits. [W]hen the contemnor [comes] into
court to answer the charges of the show cause order, [s]he waive[s]
procedural requirements. Lowder v. Mills, Inc., 301 N.C. 561,
583, 273 S.E.2d 247, 260 (1981) (citation omitted). Defendant's
active participation in the hearing on this issue, without
objection, defeats her contention that she was without notice that
the 5 June 2006 proceeding would include a review of her failure to
take responsibility for the credit card payments.
This argument is without merit.
IV. Authority of Trial Court to Order Payment of Debt
In her third argument, defendant contends that the consent
order merely required her to assume financial responsibility for
the credit card debts, and that the trial court erred in holding
her in contempt for her failure to comply with the court order as
it related to the credit cards. We disagree.
The consent order provided that defendant
hereby assumes all
financial responsibility on all obligations listed on Schedule B
attached hereto, and agrees to indemnify the Plaintiff and hold him
harmless for any liability thereon. . .
Schedule B indicates that
at the time of the consent order there were three outstanding
credit cards, including an MBNA card, a CitiFinancial card, and aChase card. The consent order further provided that [u]pon entry
of this Order each party will promptly undertake to transfer to
their name individually the balance owed on each debt assumed by
the said party. . .
The clear purpose of these provisions of the
consent order was to relieve plaintiff of responsibility for those
debts assumed by defendant.
The trial court made the following findings of fact pertaining
to these debts:
10. That the Defendant has failed and refused
to comply with the June 16, 2005 Consent
Order and subsequent Orders entered by
this Court requiring the Defendant to
assume all financial responsibility for
MBNA credit card account number ,
Citi Financial credit card number ,
Chase credit card account number 
as well as any other outstanding and
unpaid obligation incurred by the
Defendant and not disclosed in the June
16, 2005 Consent Order.
11. That, at the present time, there is a
balance owed on the Chase account in the
amount of $10,299.57 and an amount owed
on the MBNA account in the amount of
$21,815.11. Both accounts continue to be
listed as Plaintiffs obligation.
Defendant argues that she made good faith efforts to have
plaintiff's name removed from these accounts, but was unable to do
The standard of review for contempt proceedings is limited to
determining whether there is competent evidence to support the
findings of fact and whether the findings support the conclusions
of law. Sharpe v. Nobles
, 127 N.C. App. 705, 709, 493 S.E.2d 288,
291 (1997) (citation omitted). Findings of fact made by the judgein contempt proceedings are conclusive on appeal when supported by
any competent evidence and are reviewable only for the purpose of
passing upon their sufficiency to warrant the judgment. Hartsell
99 N.C. App. at 385, 393 S.E.2d at 573 (citation omitted). North
Carolina's appellate courts are deferential to trial courts in
reviewing their findings of fact. Harrison v. Harrison
, __ N.C.
App. ___, 637 S.E.2d 284, 286 (2006).
We hold that the findings of fact pertaining to the credit
card accounts are supported by competent evidence, and are thus
binding upon this Court.
We next turn to whether these findings support the trial
court's conclusion that defendant was in contempt of court for her
failure to comply with the Court Order as it relates to two credit
The consent order required defendant to do three
things: (1) assume all financial responsibility on all obligations
listed on Schedule B; (2) indemnify and hold harmless plaintiff
from any liability thereon; and (3) promptly undertake to
transfer to her name the Schedule B debts. Defendant has done none
of these things. Her obligation was to transfer the accounts into
her name individually, not to remove plaintiff's name from the
accounts. Nearly one year after the execution of the consent order
defendant had failed to comply with these provisions. These debts
had been the subject of court orders entered on 23 August 2005 and
14 October 2005. Given this history, the trial court properly
found that defendant was in contempt of court for failure to comply
with these provisions of the consent order. The order of the court holding a person in civil contempt
must specify how the person may purge himself of the contempt.
N.C. Gen. Stat. . 5A-22 (2005). The court's conditions under which
defendant can purge herself of contempt cannot be vague such that
it is impossible for defendant to purge herself of contempt, Cox v.
, 133 N.C. App. 221, 226, 515 S.E.2d 61, 65 (1999), and a
contemnor cannot be required to pay compensatory damages.
, 99 N.C. App. 380, 390-92, 393 S.E.2d 570, 577-78.
In the instant case, the court clearly and unambiguously
articulated what action defendant was required to undertake
relating to the credit cards in order to purge herself of contempt:
d. Pay in full the Chase credit card account
number  (present account number)
and MBNA credit card account number
 (present number) on or before
The consent order obligated defendant to relieve plaintiff of
financial responsibility for the credit cards. Although defendant
contends that the obligation to assume financial responsibility
for the credit cards is not synonymous with paying off the credit
card obligations, we hold that the trial court properly ordered
defendant to pay the credit card debt as the only means of forcing
defendant to comply with the terms of the consent order. This
assignment of error is without merit.
Defendant further contends that she was not responsible for
the Chase credit card ending in -9036. While she acknowledges that
she agreed to take responsibility for the Chase credit card ending
in -4034 listed in Schedule B, as well as any other outstandingand unpaid obligation incurred by the defendant and not disclosed
hereunder, she challenges the court's finding that either: 1) she
incurred an obligation for the Chase credit card ending in -9036,
or 2) the Chase credit card ending in -9036 was a transfer of the
balance of the previous Chase card ending in -4034.
In accordance with the appropriate standard of review in
contempt proceedings, we examine the record to determine whether
there was competent evidence to support a finding that the Chase
card ending in -9036 was encompassed in the debts listed in
Schedule B to the consent order. See Sharpe,
127 N.C. App. at 709,
493 S.E.2d at 291. The record reveals that plaintiff testified
that the -9036 account was a transfer from one of those three
accounts. Plaintiff testified that he learned of the account when
he received a letter from an attorney firm hired by Chase Manhattan
to collect the balance on the account, and that the billing address
of the -9036 card was that of defendant's place of business.
Defendant neither contradicted plaintiff's testimony nor objected
to it. We cannot agree with defendant's contention that there is
no evidence that [she] incurred any obligation for the Chase credit
card account ending in -9036. We find that there is competent
evidence in the record to support the court's finding that the
Chase card ending in -9036 was defendant's responsibility. This
argument is without merit.
V. Present Means and Ability to Comply
In her fourth argument, defendant contends that the trial
court's finding that she had the present means and ability tosatisfy the credit card obligations is not supported by competent
Civil contempt is designed to coerce compliance with a court
order, and a party's ability to satisfy that order is essential.
Adkins v. Adkins
, 82 N.C. App. 289, 293, 346 S.E.2d 220, 222
Because civil contempt is based on a willful violation of
a lawful court order, a person does not act willfully if compliance
is out of his or her power. Henderson v. Henderson
, 307 N.C. 401,
408, 298 S.E.2d 345, 350 (1983).
Willfulness constitutes: (1) an
ability to comply with the court order; and (2) a deliberate and
intentional failure to do so. Sowers v. Toliver
, 150 N.C. App.
114, 118, 562 S.E.2d 593, 596 (2002) (citation omitted). Ability
to comply has been interpreted as not only the present means to
comply, but also the ability to take reasonable measures to comply.
Teachey v. Teachey
, 46 N.C. App. 332, 334, 264 S.E.2d 786, 787
(1980). A general finding of present ability to comply is
sufficient when there is evidence in the record regarding
defendant's assets. Adkins
, 82 N.C. App. at 292, 346 S.E.2d at
In the instant case, the trial court found that the defendant
was able to take reasonable measures to comply with the court order
to pay off the credit card debts. In its 14 October 2005 order,
the court found that defendant had in excess of $580,000.00 of
equity in real estate in her name individually. In the June 2006
Contempt Order, the court made the following findings of fact:
12. Defendant continues to own all of the
realty awarded to her under the June 16,2005 Consent Order which the Court has
earlier found to have a combined net
equity in excess of $500,000.00.
Defendant contends two of the properties
are currently listed for sale and the
Chapel Hill property continues to be
. . .
14. That the Defendant has had and continues
the present means and ability
with which to satisfy the credit card
obligations assigned to her. . .
The court afforded defendant 90 days from the time of the contempt
hearing on 5 June 2006 to comply with the order, providing
defendant an opportunity to sell the properties and acquire the
funds to satisfy the order.
This Court has held
that prior findings of a present ability
to pay may be res judicata
as to future proceedings on that issue.
Abernethy v. Abernethy
, 64 N.C. App. 386, 387-88, 307 S.E.2d 396,
397 (1983). Defendant attempts to distinguish Abernethy
pointing out that, since no set sum was ordered in the consent
order or the 14 October 2005 order, her ability to pay has not been
litigated. However, since we hold that at the time of the 20 June
2006 contempt order defendant had the ability to take reasonable
measures to comply with the court order, Abernethy
irrelevant to our review.
We hold there was competent evidence to support the court's
finding that defendant had the present means and ability to satisfy
the credit card debt obligations. This argument is without merit.
VI. Failure to Execute Joint Tax Returns
In her fifth argument, defendant contends that the trial court
erred in holding her in contempt for failure to execute the 2001
and 2002 joint tax returns. We disagree.
In order to find a party in civil contempt, a court must find
that [t]he purpose of the order may still be served by compliance
with the order[.] N.C. Gen. Stat. .5A-21(a)(2) (2005). Civil
contempt is inappropriate where a defendant has complied with the
previous court orders prior to the contempt hearing. Hudson v.
Hudson, 31 N.C. App. 547, 551, 230 S.E.2d 188, 190 (1976).
The consent order that the parties entered into provided that
defendant would execute the parties' joint tax returns upon their
preparation by plaintiff's CPA as long as it was lawful for her to
do so. The purpose of filing amended joint tax returns was to
decrease plaintiff's tax liability. Defendant argues that, since
she did in fact sign the 2001 and 2002 joint tax returns prior to
the contempt hearing, the court was without the authority to
adjudicate her in civil contempt for failing to execute the
additional documents required by the IRS. Defendant refused to
sign 1040X forms for each tax year. At the contempt hearing, CPA
Mike Minikus (Minikus) explained he received notices from the IRS
that the joint returns could not be processed until the parties
each signed and filed a 1040X form for each year. Thus, the 1040X
forms which defendant refused to execute were part of the process
of filing the amended joint tax returns. The trial court wascorrect in concluding that defendant willfully failed to timely
execute the amended tax returns.
Defendant argues that she had a valid excuse for refusing to
execute the 2001 and 2002 1040X forms. She claims that she
received information from an IRS agent regarding the 2001 1040X
form and was told she did not need to file it. Defendant argues
that her failure to comply with the consent order cannot be willful
due to a valid excuse. We disagree.
Defendant relies on Hancock v. Hancock to support her argument
that her conduct was not willful. In Hancock, this Court found
that plaintiff did everything possible to comply with the trial
court's order, and that plaintiff could not be held in contempt
because she did not act purposefully, deliberately, or with
knowledge and stubborn resistance to violate the court order.
Hancock, 122 N.C. App. 518, 523, 471 S.E.2d 415, 419 (1996). The
instant case is distinguishable from Hancock. Minikus testified
that he personally contacted defendant and requested that she
execute the 1040X form for 2001. Further, defendant testified at
the hearing that she had no objection to signing the documents. We
hold defendant's refusal to execute the 1040X forms was knowingly,
deliberate, and part of a series of recalcitrant acts designed to
frustrate the filing of amended joint tax returns required by the
express terms of the consent order. There was competent evidence
to support the court's finding of contempt for defendant's failure
to execute the 2001 and 2002 joint tax returns. Defendant further argues that the IRS had already disallowed
the 2001 joint tax return, and that Minikus testified that the
deadline for filing the 2002 return passed on 15 April 2006, five
days prior to the contempt order. Defendant argues that she could
not be held in contempt for failing to execute the 1040X forms for
2001 and 2002 because the purpose of the consent order was no
longer served by the execution of these documents.
We reject this argument. First, the purpose of the order
could still be served by defendant's signing of the 1040X form for
2003. Second, Minikus testified at the hearing that the signing of
the form 1040X would be helpful and would show the parties' due
diligence when requesting an extension for the 2002 return from the
IRS. Thus, we find that there is competent evidence that signing
the 1040X forms would still accomplish the order's purpose. This
argument is without merit.
VII. Attorneys' Fees and Expert Witness Fees
In her sixth argument, defendant contends the trial court
erred in ordering her to pay attorneys' fees and expert witness
fees. We agree in part and disagree in part.
A. Attorneys' Fees
It is settled law in North Carolina that ordinarily attorneys
fees are not recoverable as an item of damages
or of costs, absent
express statutory authority for fixing and awarding them. Baxley
, ___ N.C. App. ___, 634 S.E.2d 905, 908 (2006)
Records v. Tape Corp. and Broadcasting System v. Tape Corp.
N.C. App. 183, 187, 196 S.E.2d 598, 602 (1973)). Generally,attorney's fees and expert witness fees may not be taxed as costs
against a party in a contempt action. Id.
However, our Courts have ruled that the trial court may award
attorney's fees in certain civil contempt actions. Id.
, this Court held that:
[T]he contempt power of the district court
includes the authority to require one to pay
attorney fees in order to purge oneself from a
previous order of contempt for failing and
refusing to comply with an equitable
, 82 N.C. App. 758, 760, 348 S.E.2d 349, 350 (1986).
Defendant acknowledges the holding in Conrad
in her brief, but
makes no attempt to distinguish the holding from the facts of this
In its 20 June 2006 contempt order, the court ordered
defendant to pay $11,235.53 towards plaintiff's counsel fees as a
condition of purging herself of contempt. The attorneys' fees
ordered in this case relate to the enforcement of the parties' June
2005 equitable distribution consent order. Defendant makes no
argument that the amount of fees awarded was improper or not
supported by the evidence. This argument is without merit.
B. Expert Witness Fees
The general rule is that, unless authorized by express
statute provision, witness fees cannot be allowed and taxed for a
party to the action. City of Charlotte v. McNeely
, 281 N.C. 684,
692, 190 S.E.2d 179, 186 (1972) (citation omitted). While it is
proper for a court to award attorney's fees in a contempt
proceeding, we have held that a court has no authority to awardcosts
to a private party. See Green v. Crane
, 96 N.C. App. 654,
659, 386 S.E.2d 757, 760 (1990) (citation omitted). The statute
governing civil contempt, N.C. Gen. Stat. . 5A-21, does not
authorize a trial court to award costs to a party in a contempt
proceeding to enforce an equitable distribution consent order.
The court ordered defendant to pay fees to Minikus,
plaintiff's CPA, in the amount of $11,724.00. Although the court's
order requiring defendant to pay attorneys' fees was proper, we
hold that it was error for the court to assess an expert witness
fee against defendant. The portion of the court's order requiring
defendant to pay expert witness fees is reversed.
Remaining assignments of error listed in the record but not
argued in defendant's brief are deemed abandoned. N.C.R. App. P.
AFFIRMED in part and REVERSED in part.
Judges ELMORE and STROUD concur.
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