Every divorce will inevitably require several court orders signed by a judge. Often after signing a divorce order, one party will regret the decision, which may lead to substantial problem. Whether it involves parenting plan, child support, spousal support, or the distribution of assets, the court orders remain the steadfast rules that the parties must follow. Violation of the court orders may lead to judicial remedy.
Most typically, violations of a court order after a divorce falls into three categories:(1) refusal to pay child support, (2) refusal to pay spousal support, and (3) refusal to abide by the child’s residential schedule. Obviously, there may be other portions of a final divorce order that might be violated, but these three areas tend to be the most often in contention. Failing to follow the order as written may allow the other party to file one of two separate motions.
On an initial or unintentional violation, the party in need of relief may file a motion to enforce the court order. Most of the time, there is clear evidence of the violation since money is easy to track. If the court agrees that there was a violation, the aggrieved party is likely entitled to be made whole, which means that they might receive make-up parenting time or a judgment for the outstanding support. Enforcement of child support specifically also often leads to the availability of attorney fees as an additional sanction.
If the violations are repeated or intentional, a party may bring a motion for contempt, which acts very similarly to a plain motion to enforce the court order. However, contempt orders are taken much more seriously. They are more difficult to prove, requiring evidence that the failing spouse intentionally violated the court order. If established, the aggrieved party may not only be entitled to be made whole, but they may also receive attorney fees. Finally, the party in contempt will likely be forced to pay a civil penalty for the contempt. Subsequent motions for contempt may lead to greater civil penalties and even the possibility of jail.
Following the court orders is highly recommended, and if you are having trouble with a particular portion of the plan, you may want to work with an attorney to coordinate directly with the other party. Perhaps the parties can work cooperatively to find an alternative solution that can avoid violation of the court order while at the same time providing reassurances to the other party. If the inability to follow the order is more permanent, an attorney may also be able to help file a petition to modify the court order. With proper evidence of hardship and changes, the court may allow a prior court order to be amended to better suit the current circumstances.
Ultimately, to avoid the potential costs and penalties of a contempt motion, post-divorce parties should strive to follow the court orders to a tee unless they have written agreement from the other party. At the law offices of Magnuson Lowell, PS, we work with our clients to find the best available option for their case. We collaborate with the opposing party or attorney to find creative solutions to avoid judicial intervention. Call today for a free case evaluation.