A judge has broad equitable powers to enforce judgments and recover fraudulent transfers. Suppose a debtor moves money and other financial assets beyond a creditor’s reach making more difficult for the judgment creditor to recover the assets to satisfy the judgment. Several clients have asked me whether a judge can simply order the debtor to bring back to assets and assign the assets to the creditor, or whether a judge simply can order the debtor to write a check to the creditor. If the debtor does not comply with the judge’s order to pay the creditor, can the judge hold the debtor in contempt and incarcerate the debtor until he pays?
The answer is that generally speaking judges cannot order debtors to give assets to their creditors and hold the debtor in contempt for non-compliance. The Florida Constitution prohibits imprisonment for failure to pay debts except in the case for fraud. Florida courts have ruled in many cases that a court can use contempt powers to enforce defendant’s duties and actions, but contempt is not a remedy to enforce payments of debt.