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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2006-3



MARGARIDA SILVA

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board April 6, 2006.

SUMMARY1


The respondent received a public reprimand for being adjudicated in contempt in post-divorce proceedings arising out of her personal divorce case.

After a divorce trial in March 1999, a Probate and Family Court judge ordered custody of the respondentís minor child to the respondentís former spouse and ordered the respondent to pay $55.79 per week in child support plus her share of medical and visitation costs for the child. In February 2000, the former spouse filed a complaint for modification seeking an increase in child support. At a pre-hearing conference in December 2002, the former spouse requested and was granted an order for a wage assignment directing the respondent to make all future child support payments through the Department of Revenue. After this order was entered, the respondent took no steps to effect the wage assignment and willfully failed to make weekly child support payments to the ex-husband. In addition, the respondent willfully failed to pay one-half of the childís uninsured medical expenses.

In February 2003, the former spouse filed a complaint for contempt against the respondent in which he alleged that the respondent owed $1,328.25 in back child support payments and that she had failed to pay her share of the medical and visitation costs. After a hearing on the complaint for contempt in March 2003, the court adjudicated the respondent guilty of contempt for her willful failure to pay child support and her willful failure to pay her share of the childís uninsured medical expenses. The court set the child support arrearage at $1,684 and the respondentís share of the uninsured medical expenses at $230. The court ordered the respondent to pay $14 per week on the arrearage in addition to her normal weekly child support obligation, and to pay the uninsured medical expenses within sixty days. The court also ordered the respondent to pay $500 to the former spouseís attorney within ninety days.

Thereafter, the respondent made the support and medical expenses payments as ordered by the court. However, the respondent willfully failed to pay $500 to the ex-husbandís attorney within ninety days. On July 29, 2003, the ex-husband filed a second complaint for contempt against the respondent seeking payment of the $500 in attorneyís fees. The respondent paid the $500 immediately after she was served with a copy of the second complaint for contempt.

The respondentís willful failure to pay court-ordered child support and medical expenses, resulting in an adjudication of contempt, violated Mass. R. Prof. C. Rule 3.4(c) (lawyer shall not knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal), and 8.4(d) (lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) and (h) (lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on fitness to practice law). The respondentís willful failure to obey the courtís March 26, 2003 order and pay $500 to her ex-husbandís attorney until after a second complaint for contempt was filed against her, violated Mass. R. Prof. C. Rule 3.4(c) and 8.4(d) and (h).

1 Compiled by the Board of Bar Overseers based on the record of proceedings before the Board.



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