Once you get a divorce, each of you receive a legal document referred to as a divorce decree. This is a legal document outlining the settlement of the divorce and important arrangements such as custody, child support, alimony, asset division, and the like.
In some cases, one former spouse fails to follow the divorce decree. If your former spouse does not adhere to the decree once the divorce is finalized, you could be left without important payments owed to you or reliable custody situations. This is not only frustrating, but it also could be disastrous if you rely on the money and custody schedule you both agreed to.
If your former spouse does not adhere to the divorce decree, you have some options to ensure you protect your rights. The following are some things you should know if you end up in this situation.
Are Divorce Decrees Legally Binding?
First, you need to understand the legality of a divorce decree. All the arrangements made in a divorce decree are legally binding, and the document is enforceable once it is entered into court. The decree becomes a court order. If your spouse ignores a court order, he or she can face major legal trouble.
What Are Some Ways You Spouse Can Disobey the Decree?
Your former spouse can disobey a divorce decree in a variety of ways. Property division issues is one example. Although you divide your assets in a divorce, the final divisions take time to complete.
If you have any sort of unfinished business regarding the division, such as selling a home or handing over specific items to the other and your spouse fails to hold up his or her end of the transaction, it is a violation of the divorce decree. You could end up with less money or without the property you should have received in the settlement.
Another decree violation relates to visitation and custody of the children. If your former spouse does not allow you to see your children according to your parenting plan and visitation schedule, you have the right to take your spouse to court for violation of your divorce decree. Any wavering from your agreement with custody is against court orders and is problematic.
Another problem is when your former spouse does not pay his or her child support or alimony payments. Late payments are also a violation of the decree. Late or missing payments can put you and your children in a serious financial bind, making it difficult to pay for your basic living expenses in some cases.
How Can You Enforce a Divorce Decree?
There is little you can do yourself to enforce your divorce decree if your former spouse violates it. However, you can go back to court and ask the judge to enforce the divorce decree. Before you go to court, speak with your attorney to discuss the options available to you. In some cases, your attorney can draft a letter demanding your former spouse follow the decree.
The letter should lay out any legal ramifications he or she can face when in violation of the divorce decree. In many instances, a letter is enough of a motivator to get your former spouse back on track.
If a letter does not work, you can discuss the next steps with your attorney. You should prepare to gather and submit any evidence you have that demonstrates your former spouse is in violation of your divorce decree. This includes text messages, emails, voicemails, account statements, or anything else showing he or she did not follow the decree.
Once you get to court, the judge will look at your evidence and determine whether or not your former spouse is in violation. If the judge agrees, your former spouse can face penalties, which can include fines, frozen bank accounts, income garnishment, loss of driver's license, and the like. In severe cases of violation, the judge can find your spouse in contempt of court.
If you need assistance with your divorce, please contact Peter S. Aex, Attorney at Law.