Dealing with a former spouse who refuses to follow Court orders can be incredibly frustrating, and yet, it is also common.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to rectify the situation, though it really depends on the nature of the violation. Let’s take a look at some common violations of Court orders and what you and your attorney can do to attempt to enforce them.
Court Orders Relating to Finances
If the violation has to do with finances, you have a multitude of options.
Garnish Wages: If your ex was ordered to make monthly payments but isn’t, the first thing you can do is get an income assignment or a garnishment against his or her paycheck. This ensures that the child support funds will immediately be removed from your ex’s paycheck before he or she even gets to take it to the bank.
Get a Judgment: A judgment for child support accrues interest at the rate of 12% per annum. Once you have a judgment, you can try and collect the judgment, you can put a lien on a house owned by your former spouse, you can try and foreclose on the lien, garnish bank accounts and even seize personal property. This can include making arrangements with the sheriff to seize property and sell it to apply towards your debt.
Contempt: This is a popular way to approach enforcing Court orders, and it falls into two categories: criminal contempt and civil contempt.
Criminal Contempt: You have to demonstrate that there was in fact an order, that the person knew about the order, the person violated it, and the person willfully violated the Order, e.g., the person had the ability to perform and didn’t. If you can prove those things beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge can then impose sanctions that include jail, fines or both.
Civil Contempt: Like criminal contempt, you have to prove there was an order, that the person knew about it, and that he or she didn’t perform. However, instead of insisting that the person did it willfully, you only have to prove that he or she has the present ability to perform.
Consult with your attorney to determine which route is best in your case if you are trying to enforce Court orders relating to money.
Court Orders Relating to Parenting
Now, if the violation is not financial and is really a parenting time issue (say, your ex refuses to drop off the kids when and where ordered to do so), there’s a statute that addresses parenting time disputes. It offers a variety of remedies (including contempt-type remedies), but it also includes modifying parenting time, makeup parenting time, and attorney’s fees awards.
In general, all of these remedies can take quite a while.
Like I always say, every case is different, and especially when you’re dealing with children, the Court will be careful about modifying the original divorce agreement. The Court is always trying to work out the best case scenario for the children.
I am a firm believer that contempts have a very limited place. They’re expensive and they can encourage parental alienation. Additionally, it can add to the animosity between the parties, and frequently leads to the children’s involvement, e.g., Mommy is trying to put Daddy in jail. Granted, in some cases, the threat of contempt can be a very useful negotiating tool and motivate parties that otherwise won’t negotiate, but in general, it is crucial to be very thoughtful when dealing with these situations. Additionally, contempt may get the other parties “attention” and indicate that he/she cannot do whatever he/she wants to do.
If you are dealing with an ex who refuses to follow Court orders, let’s talk. Call us today at 303-449-1873 to set up a free consultation and find out what is possible for your situation.