Enforcement of Divorce Decrees
A divorce is one of the most impactful decisions a couple can make. Depending upon the relationship and circumstances of the parties, the process may be amicable or hotly contested up until the moment the final divorce decree is filed with the court. Though divorced couples are legally bound to the order, they do not always comply with it. Some may flat-out refuse to perform; others simply misunderstand the language or intent of the terms.
Enforcement of the divorce decree can be resolved with communication outside of court. However, if that process breaks down, another option is to file a motion for contempt for violating a court order.
Whether you are the party filing the motion or the party defending against it, the Law Offices of Travis Walker is the family law firm Floridians on the Treasure Coast trust to represent their interests in highly-charged matters like these. Our divorce lawyers are based in Stuart, Florida with satellite offices in Palm Beach County and Tallahassee. If you need us, please call and schedule a confidential consultation.
The Divorce Decree Demands Compliance
It’s important to first understand the significance of the divorce decree. It is the document that contains the court’s final orders regarding all the family issues at stake in the divorce, including matters like spousal support, child support, and child custody. Also known as the judgment of dissolution, the divorce decree is legally binding on both spouses.
Common Divorce Decree Violations
The most common violations of divorce decrees are premised on the failure or refusal to:
This is only a partial list, however, and the details of the divorce decree may be quite comprehensive. Not all violations are made intentionally. Mistakes in the document and ambiguous terms can also bring exes back to court to resolve what is nothing more than a misunderstanding.
How to Enforce a Divorce Decree
Before you resort to legal options, it is advisable, under most circumstances, to first try and calmly communicate with your former spouse. Perhaps together, you can find a solution that does not require court intervention. Judges tend to frown upon enforcement actions like these.
That being said, clear and calm communication isn’t always as option, especially under these circumstances. Informal mediation with an impartial third party you both trust is one way to attempt compliance. Mediation with a licensed mediator is another way. For issues such as child visitation, some divorce decrees will require parties to attend a legal mediation prior to appearing for the Motion for Contempt hearing.
Filing a Motion for Contempt of Court in Divorce
Another obstacle to a contempt filing is to ensure that the original terms of the order were clear and that both parties had the same understanding of their respective rights and responsibilities. In order to rise to the level of contempt, the accused party must have willfully disregarded the court order. If each party had a different interpretation of their respective duties, then the misunderstanding is more appropriately resolved with the filing of a motion for clarification.
If the respondent ex-spouse is believed to have violated the decree intentionally, additional civil and even criminal penalties may apply. Upon the filing of the motion for contempt, the petitioner must also serve the respondent with notice of the motion and the hearing date, at which time both parties will have the opportunity to state their case. If the petitioner is successful, the judge will enter an order of enforcement of the divorce decree along with any penalties it wishes to assess against the violating party.
Your Three Steps to Moving Forward
At the Law Offices of Travis Walker, we appreciate how stressful enforcing a decree against an uncooperative former spouse can be and have extensive experience in navigating these cases. If you find yourself at an impasse with a former spouse in Stuart, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie, Martin County, Palm Beach County, or other counties and cities on the Treasure Coast, we recommend that you:
Attend a virtual or in-office consultation so we can better understand your case and determine how we can help guide you to success.
Retain our firm so we may lead you through the legal process as quickly and painlessly as possible.
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