After having spent a considerable amount of time, money and emotional energy to come up with a Marital Settlement Agreement, or a divorce decree issued by a judge outlining the terms of the divorce, it can be frustrating when the other party is not abiding by the agreement. Whether the behavior in question occurs right away, or a few years after the divorce has been final, the aggrieved party does have a remedy for encouraging their former spouse to comply with the order.
A divorce decree has the force of law, so neither you nor the other party have the option to pick and choose which aspects to obey and which ones to ignore. The party who chooses to willfully ignore a court-ordered divorce decree is subject to being held in contempt of court.
What are the common issues involved when a person is in contempt of court?
- Child support: The party responsible for paying child support may decide that the amount of child support is too high, so he or she simply stops making the required payments.
- Child custody: Child custody disputes are one of the most contentious issues in divorce. After the divorce, one parent might use the children to get back at a former spouse by being late returning the children, or not making them available for the other parent’s visitation time. Each of these is an example of custodial interference and it violates the other party’s parenting rights.
- Division of assets: There are couples out there who will fight over teaspoons, or who will get the throw pillows. The more common arguments, however, usually arise over pensions and retirement accounts, valuable collections (such as art or cars), and who owes which debts.
- Spousal support: The paying spouse decides on his or her own that they are going to stop making agreed-upon spousal support payments.
Are you in compliance with the divorce decree?
Have you read through the marital settlement agreement and made sure that you have complied with every stipulation assigned to you? It could get awkward if you are pointing an accusatory finger at your former spouse only to discover that your hands are not clean either, so make sure that you are aware of the conditions of the divorce decree and that you have complied with them.
Try communicating with your ex-spouse first
If you are on speaking terms with your former spouse, you should try explaining that his or her actions is in violation of your agreement. There could be something going on in their lives that is causing the situation. Assuming the worst can lead to more disagreements.
Keep track of the infractions
If your ex missed one spousal support payment, you may not wish to take him or her back to court. However, if the problem is systemic, then you have every right to pursue what is yours. Make note of when payments are late, when you go to pick up the children and no one is home, all the times when your co-parent keeps the children for longer than they are allowed to do so, etc.
What are your options for enforcing a divorce agreement?
If you are not dealing with a misunderstanding, but a willful refusal to comply with the divorce decree, you would file the action in the same court where your divorce decree was issued for contempt of court. This would compel your spouse to appear at a court hearing. At the hearing, the judge will most likely order your ex-spouse to comply with the terms of the divorce decree within a specific time limit. For example, the judge might give them 30 days to comply with the terms of the divorce that they have been violating. If they still do not comply within the prescribed time limit, the judge may hold them in contempt of court. The judge may impose jail time, they might modify the visitation schedule if that is the subject of the violations, or the judge could order them to pay all of your court costs.
Stay in touch with your divorce attorney when you are facing complicated disputes such as trying to hold your former spouse in contempt of court. At McCabe Russell, we are here to advocate for our clients’ rights. Our skilled team of family law attorneys are here to fight for you when your former spouse is not adhering to the divorce decree.
At McCabe Russell, PA, we protect your interests as we support you throughout the divorce process. Our Rockville divorce attorneys protect your best interests every step of the way. You can speak with an experienced lawyer by calling 443-917-3347 or filling out our contact form. We also maintain offices in Columbia, Bethesda and Fulton.