Divorce is rarely an easy process. After a divorce is final, if one party fails to follow the terms of your divorce settlement it can be frustrating. If your ex is not following your divorce agreement, you have options. Sometimes a gentle reminder that a quick deed must be done or an alimony payment is due is all that is needed. But if this doesn’t work, you should see your divorce attorney to find out what legally you can do to get your ex to comply.
It is important for both former spouses to uphold their end of the agreement. For example if your ex is not paying child support or payments are late or less than what is owed, your attorney may recommend that the wayward parent’s paycheck be attached. If successful, the employer will be required to deduct the child support amount and send it to the other parent, before releasing the pay to their employee. Non payment of child support hurts the child.
Whatever the case may be, it’s important to take action quickly and decisively. Let’s look at some of the steps you can take if your ex is not following your divorce agreement and how to work toward a resolution.
Reasons Your Ex May Be in Contempt of a Court Order
The actual document granting the divorce is a legal order of the court. That means if you for whatever reason are not doing what is outlined in the Final Judgement of Divorce or Dissolution of Marriage, then you are in contempt of court. When a divorce is finalized, it is expected that both parties will follow the agreement that was ordered, including distribution of assets and liabilities, custody arrangements, and child and spousal support. Some reasons an ex may not be in contempt are:
Change in Financial Situation
One of the most common reasons why a former spouse is failing to pay child support, spousal support or turn over assets may be due to a change in their financial circumstances since the divorce was final. The change in financial circumstances must be significant. For instance, if a parent is laid off work and cannot get a new job paying the same as the previous job.
However if that is the case, being in contempt or asking the other parent to just accept they will not be paying is not a solution. The ex must file for a modification and provide proof of the situation. Only then if the circumstances are proven, will the court modify the order. If the circumstances prove to be untrue, then the order will stand and back support or transfer of funds will be required or the court will meter out punishment.
Misunderstanding or Misinterpreting the Agreement
Misunderstanding or misinterpreting the terms of a divorce agreement is a common reason for conflict between ex-spouses. Even if both parties agreed on the terms during the negotiation, it is still possible for misunderstandings to arise. A divorce can be full of emotion including anger. In anger or frustration with the proceedings, a spouse may agree but after the dust settles, find out they were fully thinking straight when they agreed. Although the attorneys involved will do their best to explain the terms before the judgment is final, a lack of true understanding can still occur.
When this happens, frequent arguments may occur and it will take the lawyers explaining or interpreting what the court means to the parties. If the parties still do not agree, they may need to return to court and let the judge make the final call. It is advisable to resolve disagreements in a civil manner or seek the court’s assistance when necessary.
Intentionally Refusing to Comply
An intentional refusal to comply is a blatant disregard of the court’s authority. Just because you are unhappy with the terms of the agreement is not a reason allowed by the court to not comply. Clearly you are in contempt and the other party can file legal actions to force you to explain why you have failed to comply.
The reasons for the refusal to comply can be varied, ranging from a desire for revenge to believing the agreement is not fair, or desiring to maintain control over the ex-spouse. Whatever the reason, it is imperative for the non-compliant party to understand that failure to comply with the terms of the agreement can have serious legal consequences, including fines, jail time, or loss of custody or visitation rights.
What to Do If Your Ex is Not Complying
If your ex-partner is not complying with the divorce agreement, the first step is to document all the instances of noncompliance, such as missed or late payments or refusing to abide by custody arrangements. You can also keep a record of your requests and the spouse’s reply. You want to “get it in writing” such as texts and emails. Once you have sufficient evidence that noncompliance is continuous, it’s time to seek legal help.
You or your lawyer on your behalf can file a motion for contempt in court, stating how your ex is not following the court orders. This motion sometimes is enough to get the compliance as they do not want go to court knowing they will lose. Otherwise both parties will have a court hearing where your ex will have to provide a plausible explanation for their non-compliance. If the judge finds your ex-partner guilty of contempt, they can be held responsible for the consequences. These consequences would likely include first, a requirement to comply immediately and provide proof of that compliance. If they do not, they could then suffer punishments such as jail time, loss of drivers license, fines, or other penalties the court can administer.
Contact Redwood City Divorce Lawyer, Bradley Bayan
If you’re dealing with an ex that isn’t complying with a divorce agreement, Bradley Bayan can provide you with the support and legal guidance you need to resolve the situation. The primary emphasis of the Law Offices of Bradley D. Bayan is on divorce law which includes dissolution of marriage, child custody, spousal support, and distribution of marital assets. When a party is in contempt of the court’s order, in this case of not following the divorce agreement, attorney Bayan is an experienced litigator who will fight to help you get the compliance required. Contact the Law Offices of Bradley Bayan at (650) 364-3600 to schedule a free consultation.