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How to enforce the terms of your divorce decree

On Behalf of | Jun 5, 2023 | Family Law |

You might breathe a sigh of relief once your divorce is finalized. After all, key legal issues might’ve been aggressively fought over, whether at the negotiation table or in court, and now all has come to a close. But even if you obtained a favorable outcome, the matter may not be fully resolved. This is especially true if you have a former spouse who is unwilling to abide by existing court orders.

If your former spouse is refusing to stick to a divorce agreement or abide by a court order, you might be at risk of losing out on the financial support that you need, or your time with your children might be limited. Although that can be incredibly stressful, you might be able to rectify the situation by seeking post-divorce enforcement.

How do you seek enforcement of a divorce agreement or court order?

When you seek enforcement of a divorce decree, you’re essentially asking the court to hold your former spouse in contempt. Before you can take that action, though, you need to do the following:

  • Review the existing order: The court isn’t going to be able to compel your former spouse to act unless it’s clear that they’ve violated an existing court order. Therefore, you’ll want to review the order in question to find the language that your spouse directly violated and that you’re seeking to enforce.
  • Gather evidence of noncompliance: Once you file your petition for enforcement, the court is going to schedule the matter for a hearing. At that hearing, you’ll be expected to present evidence as to how your former spouse has violated the existing order in question. Therefore, now is the time to start assessing that evidence to pin down how you can prove that your former spouse is in violation of your divorce decree.
  • Negotiate resolution: With the threat of contempt hanging over them, your spouse might be willing to negotiate a resolution in the matter that keeps everyone out of court. You might want to be open to discussing such resolution in your case.
  • File your petition: If you can’t talk the issue through with your former spouse, you’re going to have to move forward with filing your petition for enforcement if you want to protect your rights under the divorce decree. Here you’ll want to be specific about the order that’s been violated and how it’s been violated. Then you can focus on building your arguments to present in court.

What can an enforcement petition get you?

If you succeed with your petition, the court can do a number of things. This includes fining your spouse until they fall into compliance with the court’s order, sending your former spouse to jail until such time as they’re willing to comply, or ordering your former spouse to pay your legal fees. In some instances, the court may even modify an existing order in a way that it feels will be easier for the other spouse to comply with. Remember, the goal is to obtain compliance with the court’s order, not to punish your former spouse.

Don’t let your former spouse take advantage of you

You worked hard to secure the divorce decree that’s in place. Don’t let your spouse diminish your efforts by their unwillingness to abide by the court’s order. Instead, think about taking the legal action necessary to protect your interests and your position.

If you’re unsure about how to go about doing that, now might be the best time for you to continue to educate yourself on the process and gather the evidence that you need to present the strongest arguments possible according to the facts.