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Enforcing a Divorce Decree: Everything You Need to Know

For some spouses, ensuring one party doesn’t violate the divorce decree is an overwhelming and stressful reality. Explore your options.

You’ve just gotten divorced. You now have a divorce decree in hand. And now, you expect your ex to uphold their obligations as outlined in your divorce decree.

Makes sense.

Unfortunately, even though your decree is legally enforceable, your ex may still fail to adhere to the terms ordered by the judge. The good news is that if you cannot get your ex to honor your divorce decree, it is within your rights to seek to enforce the decree via the court.

Here’s a rundown on how to enforce a divorce decree.

Divorce Decree How To Enforce One

Let’s get started!

Pinpoint What Part of Your Divorce Decree Your Ex Failed to Comply With

The necessary steps for enforcing your divorce decree will ultimately depend on the provisions that your ex has failed to follow.

For instance, your ex might not be caught up on their spousal maintenance and child support payments. Or perhaps they violated your established parenting time and child custody order.

Enforcing your divorce decree may also be necessary if the other party refuses to complete the process of transferring title to assets, like real estate, that the judge has awarded you.

Before you attempt to enforce your divorce decree, take a good look at the document to make sure that you understand both your and your ex’s obligations. Then, determine which requirements your ex isn’t meeting.

Of course, make sure that you are also upholding your obligations under your decree.

Have a Talk with Your Ex Concerning Their Obligations

After you’ve determined which divorce decree obligations your ex has failed to fulfill, you may want to talk to them directly about this issue.

Specifically, you should remind them about the decree and let them know that you’ll be enforcing your rights immediately if they don’t address the situation.

The reality is, your ex likely doesn’t want to have to face a judge and defend their inability to comply with your divorce decree. So, sometimes a mere conversation can be highly effective.

Do Some Information Gathering

Let’s say that your efforts to motivate your ex to comply with the divorce decree are ineffective. At this point, you need to begin gathering evidence to support your argument in court.

For instance, look for financial records or written communications that support your assertion. A divorce attorney can help you to determine which records to obtain and compile for a possible enforcement action in court.

File Your Enforcement Motion

When you’re ready to file your motion for the enforcement of the divorce decree, you’ll need to attach your evidence along with other documentation required with the form. Your attorney can assist you in filing your motion with your county’s clerk of courts.

Note that your ex may be considered to be in contempt of court if they are not making child support or spousal support payments as required.

Also, they may be deemed in contempt of court if they are not complying with specified visitation and custody agreements.

The Hearing

Once you file your enforcement motion, your ex may end up responding to the motion. At this point, the court should schedule a hearing date.

During the hearing, the judge will ask you questions related to the motion you have filed.

In addition, both your ex and you will be given an opportunity to present your individual arguments. You’ll also be permitted to present your supporting documentation concerning the other person’s refusal to follow the divorce decree.

In the end, the judge will rule based on your presented evidence and arguments.

Debt Collections

Perhaps the judge rules in your favor regarding your ex’s failure to pay child support or spousal support following your divorce. In this situation, you might be able to obtain your payments via a collections procedure.

The collections procedure works similarly to any other procedure used to collect debt. The money that your ex owes you may essentially be confiscated to satisfy their obligation amount. This can be done via bonus checks or a tax refund, for instance.

Keep in mind if you’re taking collection, you’ll likely need several important pieces of information regarding your ex. Information that may be helpful to gather and have on hand include the following:

  • Their social security number
  • Their birth date
  • Their home and work address
  • Their work phone number
  • Their bank name and account number
  • Their vehicle license plate number
  • A picture of them

In addition, you need to make sure that you have a copy of your divorce order from a judge. A judge should have signed the order. The order should also be stamped.

All in all, your ex will essentially get a second chance to fulfill their payment obligations following your hearing. But what if they fail to do this a second time without a legitimate reason? The court could order them to spend time behind bars in an effort to get them to comply with the divorce decree.

A legitimate reason for not upholding the decree a second time around may be the loss of employment, combined with efforts to secure new employment.

Seizure of Property

Let’s say that your ex would rather go to jail than adhere to your divorce decree.

In this case, you might be able to enforce your divorce decree by seizing their property. The judge who issued your original judgment could issue what’s called a writ of attachment, which would allow this to happen.

If your ex’s property is real estate, you could ask for the appointment of a receiver who would assume custody of their property. Then, this receiver may sell the property and use the funds to pay you back what your ex owes.

Selling the Marital Home

Maybe your ex was supposed to sell the marital home after your divorce proceeding but never did. In this case, the process we described above for seizing real estate would also come into play here.

Specifically, a judge could appoint a receiver or agent to list the house and sell it. Then, they will distribute the proceeds per the original divorce decree.

Retirement Account Division

Your divorce decree may have required your ex to split their retirement account with you. If they never did, you could pursue a contempt of court proceeding to get the money due to you.

Note, however, that you could avoid facing this problem in the first place if you have a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO, prepared for the administrator of the retirement plan when you divorce.

The QDRO will ensure that the administrator knows how the retirement plan money is supposed to be split. And as a result, the administrator could also be a responsible party to an enforcement action that you take against your ex if they don’t share the money with you.

Why Seek the Help of an Attorney

Having an attorney by your side during the enforcement action process may make it less complicated and intimidating for you.

In addition, with an attorney’s help, you’ll increase your likelihood of attaining the outcome you want. That’s because an attorney understands the laws regarding enforcing your divorce decree.

The truth is, your ex is legally obligated to follow the requirements of your divorce decree. So, if he decides not to follow it, you have the right to hold them legally accountable. And a reputable attorney will take the necessary steps to make sure that this is done properly.

How We Can Help

We offer top-tier legal services to individuals who are going through the divorce process.

Divorce can no doubt be a financially and emotionally challenging process. And if your ex doesn’t comply with your divorce decree, this can feel like adding salt to the wound. Fortunately, with our help, you can navigate this matter with confidence.

We have extensive experience with representing clients in enforcement action hearings in court. As a result, we understand the importance of providing plenty of evidence to support your argument. We’re also sure to make all filing dates and to present robust legal arguments for our clients.

At the same time, we have strong experience with helping clients who are going through rather amicable divorces. Either way, we’ll make sure that your legal rights are fully protected.

Furthermore, we have a track record of success in representing clients in multiple aspects of divorce. These include child custody, child support, property division, spousal support, and domestic abuse. They also include divorce settlement agreement modifications, fathers’ rights, and even grandparents’ rights.

Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can make your divorce process easier and fight for your best interests. We’ll work hard to achieve a favorable outcome for you.

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